There’s a reason—several million reasons, actually—why even the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) found that corrupt Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents are so dangerous, that they “pose a national security threat”:
The US government has paid out more than $60m in legal settlements where border agents were involved in deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention, an analysis of more than a decade of official data reveals.
According to treasury payment records and court documents spanning 2005 to 2017, the federal government has paid more than $9 million to the families of at least 20 people who died at the hands of border agents since 2003, “in incidents including shooting, beating, use of Tasers and collisions with vehicles.”
But by far the largest amount—more than 1,300 settlements totaling $47 million—have gone to “damages resulting from alleged reckless driving by border agents,” some of which resulted in death and maiming. In one instance, documents reveal that “there was no sign” a border agent tried to avoid Miguel Castillo Lopez, and in fact moved his body from where he was initially hit:
Longoria failed to call emergency services in a timely manner; instead, he called his co-workers and supervisors thereby failing to act within his duty to an individual he had struck.
Castillo Lopez’s widow “described him as a ‘loving and dutiful parent,’” according to the Guardian. She was awarded only $45,000 by the federal government in a wrongful death suit.
Border Patrol’s culture of violence far precedes Donald Trump’s administration. As far back as the Bush administration, officials lowered hiring standards in order to bloat up the agency, and to disastrous results—“about 170 border law enforcement agents and officers ... have been arrested, indicted or convicted in corruption cases since 2002,” according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Yet, Trump wants to hire thousands more agents despite unauthorized border crossings being at the lowest levels since 1971, and despite Border Patrol itself saying it doesn’t know what to do with all those extra agents. We do know what former and current border agents have done, and their abuses haven’t differentiated between undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens:
Four people, including two US citizens and a legal permanent resident received settlements for being wrongly deported. Nine people, including three citizens, two immigrants with legal status and two tourists, received settlements for illegal detentions of between four days and two months [...]
One U.S. citizen, Laura Mireles, “was forcibly thrown to the ground, injured, and arrested” during a border check point. The day after the incident, she suffered a miscarriage. She was ultimately awarded only $85,000 by the federal government for the incident:
She did not resist in any way when he stopped her nor interfere as he searched her car. She answered his questions politely and truthfully. At no time did Ms. Mireles behave in a manner that could give rise to suspicion of criminal activity, and no contraband was found in her car. Yet. in an apparent fit of pique. Agent Riano used unnecessary and disproportionate force against Ms. Mireles and arrested her. After being treated by paramedics for her injuries, Ms. Mireles was released from custody without ever being charged with any offense.
“The data also reveals another $6m in settlements stemming from a range of other allegations involving non-deadly force and civil rights violations,” the Guardian reports. “Lawsuits were filed by men and women who say they were racially profiled, unreasonably searched, detained for hours on end and in some cases assaulted.”
Then there’s the barbaric acts for which there’s been not even a smidge of accountability. Earlier this year, humanitarian group No More Deaths, revealed footage of border agents destroying life-saving jugs of water left for dying migrants along the border desert, where temperatures can go anywhere from 110 on up:
The report … said wildlife—as well as hunters, hikers and border militia members —also damaged aid drops. But it said the main culprits were agents from border patrol, a branch of Customs and Border Protection, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
“The practice of destruction of and interference with aid is not the deviant behavior of a few rogue border patrol agents, it is a systemic feature of enforcement practices in the borderlands.”
But rather than agents facing disciplinary action, multiple No More Death volunteers were targeted and charged with federal misdemeanor charges. One volunteer, Scott Daniel Warren, was arrested and charged with allegedly harboring undocumented immigrants. Meanwhile, just days ago, an agent was found not guilty of second-degree murder after he killed 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez:
The agent, Lonnie Swartz, said he fired in self-defence against rock-throwing drug smugglers. Prosecutors said the agent calmly, deliberately and unlawfully took a life, acting as judge, jury and executioner, and that his uniform should not shield him from justice.
Swartz shot the teenager ten times, aiming at him through the U.S. side of the border fence. “Ten bullets struck him: eight in the back, two in the head. He died where he fell.” Swartz has been on unpaid leave since. Following the verdict, “Rodríguez’s grandmother left the courtroom in tears.”
Trump keeps insisting Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are targeting people who pose a threat to public safety, when Border Patrol and ICE are the danger to public safety.