US and Mexican Officials Discuss Ways to Curb Border Violence
U.S. and Mexican officials convened to discuss the use of force by U.S. Border Patrol agents in an effort to curb the number of violent incidents that occur when apprehending immigrants.
The Foreign Relations Secretariat said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, U.S. Embassy personnel and U.S. Border Patrol officials were present at the meeting, which was held in Mexico City over the weekend.
Mexican Ambassador to the United States Eduardo Medina Mora and Mexican Deputy Foreign Relations Secretary for North America Sergio Alcocer Martinez represented Mexico at the meeting.
Mexico requested that Border Patrol release its manual on the use of force, to show "the guidelines and rules for the use of less lethal force when agents make detentions of migrants on the border," the secretariat said, according to Fox News Latino.
Foreign Relations Secretary Jose Antonio Meade and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto made an agreement with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to continue a discussion on identifying areas for cooperation in reducing violence at the border.
Both the U.S. and Mexico agreed that Mexican consular personnel can help train U.S. immigration officers on how to handle situations with immigrants to ensure that they do not escalate and become violent.
Officials also said alert and complaint procedures could be improved, in addition to campaigns to spread the word about the perils of crossing the border in communities situated along the border.
The secretariat said the meeting with Kerlikowske proves that the Mexican government is committed to "looking out for the safety of Mexicans who decide to migrate, assuring that they will receive dignified treatment and respect for their human rights."
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has been accused of lacking transparency in disclosing investigations into the use of deadly force at the United States' southern border.
Arizona Central.com reports that border agents who use deadly force face few, if any, consequences for their actions.
There have been 44 immigrant deaths at the border since 2005 due to agents using deadly force, and none of the agents or officers involved in the incidents have faced repercussions.
There have been eight incidents in which agents fired across the border and killed rock throwers in Mexico, according to AZ Central.
While none of the agents have publicly faced trials, Johnson ordered a review of the use-of-force policies at the border in January.
New use-of-force rules were also implemented that limits when weapons can be fired. Border Patrol agents were also instructed not to shoot at moving vehicles that do not pose a deadly threat, and to avoid situations where they have no other options but to use potentially deadly force.
Bob Ortega of The Arizona Republic told Latin Post that Customs and Border Protection has released its use-of-force manual, including a report that finds that the agency is not training its agents adequately in how to avoid using lethal force.
The report also reviewed 25 cases in which agents shot at rock throwers. The report said that "the more questionable cases generally involved shootings that took place through" the international border fence. Two or more of the cases were found to violate border policy.
The CBP has implemented other reforms in an effort to curb border violence. Kerlikowske removed the director of CBP's Office of Internal Affairs in June, which is responsible for ensuring compliance with CBP programs and policies that relate to misconduct or corruption. A senior executive at the FBI was placed at the post in the interim.
"The new policies require agents to carry and be trained in the use of less-lethal weapons. Previously, such weapons were optional. The new policies also require additional training and mandate the agency to investigate all incidents of use of deadly force, not just those that result in death or serious injury," Ortega said in an article in May.
Taser usage is also restricted. Agents can only use them on people who are resisting apprehension, and they are prohibited from shocking anymore more than three times.
"This is a monumental victory for border communities advocating for transparency and policy reform," Andrea Guerrero, co-chairwoman of the Southern Border Communities Coalition told AZ Central.
Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Border Patrol agent who killed teenager José Antonio Elena Rodríguez in Oct. 2012. Witnesses said that Rodríguez was walking down the street when border agents shot him in the back and head 10 times.
The report also said that use-of-force cases must now be thoroughly investigated.
Both Johnson and Kerlikowske promised Congress in March that they would increase accountability and transparency at CBP, and the additional pressure from Mexico will likely prompt more reforms and investigations.
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