For the Texas Department of Agriculture, a staff of more than 21,000 Border Patrol agents is insufficient even if that number equals 10 officers per mile along the 2,000-mile border between the United States and Mexico. On a typical day, the Border Patrol arrests 932 undocumented immigrants. In other words, it takes 22 agents to catch one immigrant per day.
Texan farmers and ranchers demand more security at the border in the form of more boots on the ground, more drones, more segments of the border wall, and more military equipment to protect them from perceived dangers and security threats of that area. Recently, the Texas Department of Agriculture produced the series of videos “Protect Your Texas Border” in which farmers and ranchers denounce the “security threats” at the border. The videos are misleading since they do not state facts such as a declining number of illegal border crossings and low crime-rate statistics at border communities in the American side.
Politicians in the Lone Star state, like the state’s Attorney General Greg Abbott, use any opportunity to stress the vulnerable security levels at the Southwest border, including four incidents of bullets from Mexico that crossed to the U.S. in 2010. But Abbott forgot to mention that no one was injured in those incidents since those bullets struck buildings.
In contrast, there is an alarming increase of incidents in which U.S. Border Patrol (CBP – Customs and Border Protection) agents injure or kill Mexicans. Mexican authorities have reported eight killings of Mexican citizens by Border Patrol officers in the last five years. So far in 2012, 12 Mexicans were injured and two of them died in the hands of Border Patrol officers, according to the Mexican daily La Jornada.
The most recent incident occurred this past Labor Day on September 3 when a CBP officer navigating the waters of the Rio Grande shot Guillermo Arévalo Pedroza, who was standing on Mexican soil. The victim’s family said that Arévalo was grilling fajitas in the park. However, the agent said that he acted in self-defense after the man hurled stones across the river.
The lack of proper oversight of Border Patrol agents has resulted in more incidents like this one in which Border Patrol agents killed unarmed suspects. In most cases, Mexicans died along the U.S.-Mexico international bridges, but two of them were standing on Mexican soil; one of the victims was a child, and only one of them was presumed to be armed. In every case, the Mexican government condemned the “disproportionate use of force” by Border Patrol officers. As one might know, stones are less harmful than firearms.
Last April, the Department of Justice decided to close the investigation without prosecution of the fatal shooting of the 15-year old Mexican Sergio Hernández Güereca despite allegations of excessive use of force. So far, the U.S. has failed to conduct a serious, independent, impartial and effective investigation whenever Border Patrol agents used firearms with lethal consequences, according to the United Nations’ High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Inter American Commission on Human Rights.
The killings of Mexican citizens along the U.S.-Mexico border raise critical questions on the agents’ training, the agency’s policies and practices for the use of lethal force, and the respect towards the human rights to life and due process. According to international human rights standards, the use of force by governmental security forces is only justified once all other methods of control have been exhausted and failed. Without proper oversight and accountability principles, the Border Patrol has become a large and well-equipped workforce that is increasingly feared by residents along both sides of the border.