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On October 10, 2012, US border patrol agents shot an unarmed Mexican civilian while chasing after two people who were trying to sneak across the US border. Since 2008, six such civilians were shot. Only one of them had any kind of a criminal record. We all agree on the need for better border security. But the problem happens when the government sends out agents with no training whatsoever. This is the sort of thing that debunks the austerity ideology being pushed by certain banks and politicians as a means of controlling deficits. All it has done in Europe is lead to social unrest and the rise of extremism. Here, it has led directly to the tragic loss of life.

In the incident in question, back in October, a border patrol agent's dog was hit by a rock and agents turned around and opened fire.

Border Patrol agents responded by opening fire across the border into the dark streets of Nogales, Mexico. No agents or officers claimed they’d been struck by rocks—the dog was the only one hit. By the time the agents were done firing, Jose Antonio had received two bullets to the back of the head; at least six more bullets entered the back of his body after he fell to the ground.
The shooting was done in October. It is now May and the FBI is dragging its feet on the investigation:
He landed facedown on the sidewalk, and died there, outside a small clinic whose sign read “Emergencias Medicas.” He was unarmed, according to the Nogales, Mexico, police report. Border Patrol officials, as of this writing, have declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation by the FBI, which has also declined to comment.
And as innocent civilians are being gunned down, nobody cares:
But following a rapid increase in the number of Border Patrol agents between 2006 and 2009, a disturbing pattern of excessive use of force has emerged. When I first began to notice this spate of cross-border shootings, I assumed that at least some victims were drug traffickers or human smugglers trying to elude capture. But background checks revealed that only one had a criminal record. As I began to dig more deeply, it turned out that most of the victims weren’t even migrants, but simply residents of Mexican border towns like Jose Antonio, who either did something that looked suspicious to an agent or were nearby when border agents fired at someone else.

In one case, agents killed a thirty-year-old father of four while he was collecting firewood along the banks of the Rio Grande. In another, a fifteen-year-old was shot while watching a Border Patrol agent apprehend a migrant. In yet another, agents shot a thirty-six-year-old man while he was having a picnic to celebrate his daughters’ birthdays.

By contrast, during the Clinton years, such shootings were unheard of. But now, the next such shooting is an accident waiting to happen.
As the debate over immigration reform heats up on Capitol Hill, increased border security will likely be the condition of any path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented workers now living in the United States. This makes scrutinizing the professionalism of the Border Patrol all the more urgent. The picture that emerges from this investigation is of an agency operating with thousands of poorly trained rookies and failing to provide the kind of transparency, accountability, and clear rules of engagement that Americans routinely expect of law enforcement agencies.
This is what happens when certain people have the mentality that lives are expendable. After all, these people are merely "collateral damage." Specifically, the Border Patrol has been skipping background checks, lowering training requirements, and relaxing its standards. It seems like someone within the Border Patrol got the bright idea that they needed to do their part to create more jobs no matter what.

Another part of the problem is the culture of secrecy within the government over this issue:

At the same time, Customs and Border Protection has been secretive about the guidelines its agents are supposed to follow. While a quick Google search will take you to use-of-force protocols for police departments of such major cities as New York and Los Angeles, use-of-force guidelines and training manuals for the more than 21,000 CBP border agents are difficult to come by. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees Customs and Border Protection, turned down Freedom of Information requests to see their guidelines.
The actions of these agents were a violation of an agreement between the US and Mexico in which the US has agreed not to fire into Mexican territory. Instead, there are procedures where they are required to notify Mexican authorities in the event of a border incident. This fatal shooting and others like it are likely to seriously damage relations between the US and Mexico in coming years if it is not properly addressed.

We all agree that border security should be a top priority in any immigration policy. It therefore follows that we want a government that works, not a government that spends for the sake of spending or that cuts for the sake of cutting. To do otherwise will continue to undermine public confidence in our government and our institutions.

Originally posted to Stop the Police State! on Sat May 11, 2013 at 08:53 AM PDT.

Also republished by Foreign Relations.

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