In response to several fatal shootings recently by Border Patrol personnel, agents have been instructed to show restraint when people along the border throw rocks at them or attempt to flee in cars. In a recent memo by the Border Patrol Chief, agents were told not to fire their weapons when projectiles are thrown unless there is reason to believe that the lives of agents and/or civilians are being threatened. Agents have instead been instructed to take cover.
Pattern of Assaults
Over the last four years, there have been over 1,700 assaults on border agents with rocks and other potentially harmful or deadly projectiles. To those assaults, agents have responded by discharging their firearms more than 40 times and have consequently killed 10 people. The chief also stressed the importance of physical and mental preparation among Border Patrol agents, and insisted that being properly prepared significantly increases the chances that agents and civilians will survive such situations.
Human Rights Groups Concerned
Human rights groups, as well as the Mexican government, have expressed outrage at the shootings. A 2012 joint Border Patrol/Police Executive Research Forum investigation into the matter revealed that 19 deaths resulted from nearly 70 shootings or other shows of force by Border Patrol Agents along the Southwestern border going back several years.
While the Border Patrol Chief’s memo was considered by human rights groups and other critics to be essentially a step in the right direction, the proof for them will be in the pudding. Solid implementation and effective execution of the instructions for restraint, according to an immigration advocacy group spokesperson, is the only way to truly affect change in this situation.
New Training Procedures
Training for new Border Patrol recruits has already been modified to include instructions regarding how to properly deal with hostility involving projectiles. Critics say that a detailed independent report about the agency’s efforts to curb the shootings will be the only way to accurately assess its progress.