Use-of-Force Policies Called to Question as the Agency’s Culture of Violence is Unabashedly Taught to Children
By Ricardo Favela / San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium
Different images shared by an anonymous source and found online depict Border Patrol staff showing children of various ages how to use paintball guns to shoot at a target wearing clothing with the border fence in the background.
Pedro Ríos, Chair of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, states, “The target is dressed to resemble a migrant and is located within 100 feet from Virginia Avenue where actual persons have been killed by Border Patrol gunfire.”
Mr. Ríos continues, “While encouraging children to use guns to shoot at a migrant effigy is unconscionable, it is also symbolic of the agency’s unabashed culture of violence which has grown from a lack of accountability, oversight and unprofessional standards that rebuke best practices in situations involving use-of-force.”
These images surface at a moment when Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) use-of-force policies has come under wide scrutiny resulting from the killings of over 20 unarmed civilians since 2010.
Mounting pressure from affected families, human rights organizations, members of Congress, and international bodies including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, have pushed the Department of Homeland Security to begin investigating these cases as well as CBP’s use-of-force practices. Additionally, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) was hired by CBP to issue an independent audit of the agency’s cases involving use-of-force.
The PERF’s conclusions privately released to CBP in November included recommendations suggesting that Customs and Border Protection “train agents to de-escalate these encounters by taking cover, moving out of range and/or using less lethal weapons. Agents should not place themselves in positions where they have no alternatives to using deadly force.”
Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher responded in an interview with the Associated Press by disavowing the recommendations and effectively declaring that border agents will continue to use deadly force in cases involving unarmed civilians.
Through this interview, it became known that many other recommendations made by the PERF have been kept internal to CBP, exemplifying the agency’s lack of transparency and further eroding trust with the public.
This past Tuesday, the Washington Post revealed that in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General report on CBP’s use-of-force, the recommendations urging restraint in use-of-force incidents were blacked out, including references to PERF’s other recommendations.
“This redaction by the Department of Homeland Security suggests an attempt to silence the debate regarding cases of deadly force that has resulted in more than 20 deaths since 2010,” states Pedro Ríos.
He continues, “The Administration must release the PERF report, which provides recommendations on use-of-force policies so that the out-of-control agency can be held accountable for its actions and the dehumanization of migrants ceases to be the norm, as evidenced by these images of children shooting at a migrant effigy.”