Sep 6 7:21 AM

6 things you should know about cross-border killings at U.S.-Mexico border

Sunday, at 7 and 10p ET, our new Fault Lines episode, "Cross-Border Killings", airs on Al Jazeera America. 
We will be livetweeting this episode Sunday night from our @ajfaultlines Twitter account along with our correspondent, Wab Kinew (@WabKinew), and the producer of this episode, Singeli Agnew (@Singeli).



Crossing the line at the border, Brian Epstein for Need to Know on PBS, April 20, 2012 (VIDEO)

Eight people have been killed along the border in the past two years. One man died a short time after being beaten and tased, an event recorded by two eyewitnesses[...]

Because border agents are part of the Department of Homeland Security, they are not subjected to the same public scrutiny as police officers who use their weapons.

Border Patrol Blasted At UN For Killing Mexicans, Roque Planas for The Huffington Post, October 26, 2012

The U.S. Border Patrol is facing criticism at the United Nations for killing Mexicans.

On Thursday, The American Civil Liberties Union brought a list of alleged human rights violations at the U.S.-Mexico border before the U.N. General Assembly. The ACLU's remarks were made in front of a a panel discussing human rights issues on international borders organized by the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights.

“We are deeply concerned by these systematic abuses,” said ACLU researcher Jennifer Turner. “It is essential that the United States launch a comprehensive external investigation in addition to the Department of Homeland Security’s internal review.”

Border Killings Prompt Scrutiny Over Use Of Force,Ted Robbins for NPR, November 24, 2012

In less than two years, U.S. Border Patrol agents have killed 18 Mexican citizens there — including eight people who were throwing rocks.

Last month, Border Patrol agents responded to a report of two drug smugglers jumping the fence between the twin cities of Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora. As the agents approached, a group of people on the Mexican side began throwing rocks. The Border Patrol says the agents told the people to stop. When they didn't, one agent opened fire.

Within days, news outlets in Tucson and Phoenix identified the victim: 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez. The teen, who was not one of the smugglers, was shot numerous times through the fence, on Mexican soil.

It was not an isolated incident. Since 2010, six of the eight people killed by Border Patrol agents while throwing rocks were on the Mexican side of the border.

Report: Border Patrol Shot 16-Year-Old 11 Times In The Back, Rebecca Leber for Think Progress, February 7, 2013

On October 10, a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez at the border of Mexico and Arizona. According to details in a new autopsy report, Elena Rodgriguez may have been shot as many as 11 times, all but one bullet hitting the teen from behind.

The details are still emerging in an ongoing FBI investigation. Officials say an agent opened fire on the Mexican teen, who was throwing rocks over the border fence. Under the Border Patrol’s current policy, lethal force can be used against someone throwing rocks if agents view a threat. But according to Nogales, Arizona police, it is extremely unlikely those rocks could have hit someone standing next to the fence.

"Over the Line: Why are U.S. Border Patrol agents shooting into Mexico and killing innocent civilians?", John Carlos Frey for Washington MonthlyMay/ June 2013

Fatal shootings by Border Patrol agents were once a rarity. Only a handful were recorded before 2009...But a joint investigation by the Washington Monthly and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute has found that over the past five years U.S. border agents have shot across the border at least ten times, killing a total of six Mexicans on Mexican soil.

... 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.

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.


In 2006, the Bush administration began rapidly increasing the size of the Border Patrol, ushering in a fanatic recruitment drive. Customs and Border Protection spent millions on slick television ads that ran during Dallas Cowboy football games and print ads that appeared in programs at the NBA All-Star Game and the NCAA playoffs. CBP even sponsored a NASCAR race car for the 2007 season.

In less than three years, the agency hired 8,000 new agents, making Customs and Border Protection one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the United States. Because qualified recruits were so hard to find, the Border Patrol had to lower its standards, deferring background checks and relaxing training regimens. Lie detector tests, which were previously common practice, were often omitted.

"Shootings by Agents Increase Border Tensions", Fernanda Santos for The New York TimesJune 10, 2013

Since January 2010, not a single agent has been criminally charged in cases of lethal use of force, and the agency would not say whether disciplinary action had been taken.

Scrutiny heightened last year when the Department of Homeland Security’s acting inspector general, Charles K. Edwards, began a review of policies governing the use of force by the Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection. He acted after 16 members of Congress signed a letter criticizing the “appalling behavior” of agents in San Diego, where a man in their custody died in 2010 after being stunned by a Taser several times, his hands restrained behind his back. The signers questioned whether the episode was “part of a larger cultural problem.” The review is still under way.

Customs and Border Protection has also commissioned an analysis, looking at episodes in which its agents fired weapons or otherwise used force. A spokesman for the agency said it was reviewing the findings, which have not yet been made public.


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