Number of Border Patrol shootings cause for alarm

The nation’s emphasis on securing the border and the rapid expansion of forces to patrol it have produced a troubling trend that should be cause for further examination and perhaps some soul-searching by the country’s largest federal law enforcement agency: the U.S. Border Patrol.

In the last five years there has been a growing number of fatal shootings by the Border Control of illegal immigrants, most of whom were unarmed and some of whom were on Mexican soil when killed, according the McClatchy news service.

Since 2010, Border Patrol agents have killed 21 civilians, drawing criticism from Mexican authorities and American civil rights groups that accuse the agency of having inadequate training, being resistant to adopting safeguards on the use of lethal force, being trigger happy when it comes to migrants and failing to seriously investigate and make public the findings in these deadly cases.

The Los Angeles Times/Tribune Washington Bureau produced more disturbing information about the shootings after obtaining a 21-page report commissioned by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, parent agency of the Border Patrol, and completed in February 2013. The independent review of 67 cases that resulted in 19 deaths showed that agents deliberately stepped in the path of vehicles to justify shooting at the drivers and some fired at people throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border.

Just last month, according to the Southern Border Communities Coalition, which tracks these incidents, a 41-year-old Mexican was killed in the Otay Mountains (San Diego) after reportedly throwing a rock and striking an agent.

Authors of the agency’s report, prepared by the Police Executive Research Forum, recommended that border agents should be trained to get out of the way of moving vehicles “as opposed to intentionally assuming a position in the path of such vehicles.” They said firing on the driver could cause a danger to others.

They also suggested barring agents from shooting people who throw things that can’t cause serious injury.

As with other police work, border patrols can be quite dangerous and agents can’t be hamstrung in performing their duties.

But it is imperative that there be additional training and that new policies employ less-lethal methods in confronting unarmed people.