The United States Border Patrol Chief took issue recently with what he felt was unjust criticism aimed at Border Patrol agents for using deadly force against illegal immigrants. He said that there is a misconception that agents have been firing haphazardly and without discrimination on immigrants who assault them with rocks and other projectiles. The use of force was addressed during a speech at the Border Security Expo in Phoenix, Arizona.
The chief argued that critics essentially have no frame of reference, and that border agents often find themselves in life and death situations that require split-second decision-making. He argued that it is easier to criticize these kinds of decisions retrospectively than it is to make them in real-time.
Immigrant-rights groups have called Border Patrol agents “trigger happy” when responding to individuals who throw rocks at them in an effort to distract them while other immigrants attempt to smuggle drugs into the United States. But the chief made the observation that there have been over 1,700 assaults with rocks by immigrants on border agents over the last four years.
Deadly force has been used by agents in 43 of those incidents, 10 of which have resulted in deaths. He made the further argument, however, that agents are trained to apply only the amount of force that is appropriate to “the totality of the circumstances surrounding each situation.”
The chief said that the issue of aggression and the use of force is in many cases a relative one. He went on to say that there are policies and procedures in place that are applicable to such situations. In cases where force is used by agents, he stated there is a need for independent investigators to assess the situations and make a determination as to whether or not agents involved used sound judgment and reacted appropriately.