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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is under fire over a statement that they will continue to use deadly force against rock-throwers. The internal review recommended that they do not use weapons in response to the rock-throwers, but Border Patrol Chief Mike Fisher believes it is necessary for the protection of Border patrol officers.
Fisher has admitted that the internal review board advised the agency to stop firing at the rock throwers since the last time this happened, eight people ended up dead. Twelve more were killed in various other incidents with border agents.
According to Think Progress’s report, the current Border Patrol manual states that “excessive force is strictly prohibited.” However, this case is looked upon differently because the rocks being thrown at border patrol agents are seen as lethal weapons. When agents believe their lives are in jeopardy, they are allowed to use deadly force. It seems that Border Patrol is trying to use as little force as possible since they have been under scrutiny over incidents where the people they apprehended ended up dead.
Last year, a border agent shot and killed a 16 year old eleven times after they were throwing rocks across the fence between Arizona and Mexico. Police later realized that the rocks were unlikely to have hit anyone and Border Patrol was severely criticized by media.
Tradeoff between negative media and safety
CBP has reported about 185 incidents of rock attacks in 2012 and the agents have responded with gunfire in only about 22 incidents so far. In 42 other attacks, border patrol responded with “less-than-lethal” force including pepper spray and batons. A report for the Center for American Progress showed that the U.S. spends over $17 billion on border security annually and yet the border is still having difficulties remaining secure.
Besides 19 deaths caused by border agents, tougher policies make immigrants more desperate and more likely to collaborate with criminal organizations to get across. Border Patrol is stuck in the middle in this situation because no matter what they decide they will be criticized. They can either risk the lives of border security agents or they risk killing the rock throwers.
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