Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Border enforcement

Many politicians like to say that we need to focus on enforcement of border security to prevent undocumented immigrants from crossing the border, illegally.  People like to say that any immigration reform needs to focus on border security, first.  Unfortunately, they don't exactly say what that would entail.  Often they'll refer to the idea that we need unmanned aircraft, such as drones, patrolling the area or an increased number of border security agents.  Then we can be safe from the menace of undocumented immigrants.

In 2012, PBS produced a documentary titled "Crossing the Lines" which showed footage of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas.  According to the documentary, Rojas was hog-tied, surrounded by a dozen or more agents, and was shot with a stun gun while pleading for help.  He died soon after the incident.

U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) stated that Rojas became combative and the stun gun was used to maintain officer safety.  But to many who saw the documentary, this incident just highlighted the excessive force used by CBP.

Fifteen members of the House of Representatives and one Senator wrote letters to the Department of Homeland Security, Eric Holder, and Office of the Inspector General demanding answers and justice for Rojas.

Even without the Rojas incident, there has been a substantial increase in complaints against the CBP.  In 2004, individuals who had contact with border patrol filed 34 complaints.  That increased to 65 by 2010.  Between January and June 2011, 81 new complaints have been filed.

Now there is a greater concern, according to the Office of the Inspector General.  The CBP has not tracked allegations of excessive force by border patrol agents, according to the report.  Not only that but the report goes on to state that many of the agents did not understand policies using force.  The report which was authored by the Office of the Inspector General and the Department of Homeland Security stated that because CBP had no way of tracking allegations of excessive force, investigators cannot determine how many allegations there actually has been.  But they do know that at least 19 have died while in CBP custody since 2010.

While we wait for immigration reform to happen, maybe we should start focusing on making sure CBP agents are properly trained.  They should be trained to know when force is needed or authorized.  But by letting CBP agents wallow in their ignorance, others will be harmed, possibly killed.

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