Border securityDHS finally investigates Border Patrol policies on deadly force

By Lee Maril

Published 26 October 2012

It was reported last week that DHS’s Office of the Inspector General was investigating charges of excessive force by Border Patrol guards at the Mexican border; to change the dysfunctional culture prevalent among some Border Patrol agents in certain border stations, however, will require much more than an investigation by DHS IG of policies regarding the use of deadly force; what is required at a bare minimum is more, not less, professional training at the national academy, a legitimate mentorship program for all new agents by experienced mentors, legitimate agency support for continued professional development of agents, promotions based on merit rather than paternalistic decision-making, and a number of other reforms neither DHS nor the CBP are willing to acknowledge

Robert Lee Maril, director of the Center for Diversity and Inequality Research at ECU // Source:

The Associated Press reported last week that the Department of Homeland Security’s own Office of the Inspector General was investigating charges of excessive force by Border Patrol guards at the Mexican border.  According to the article, the investigation “….involves a review of accusations of brutality and excessive force as it works to determine whether reforms have been implemented” (Washington Post, 18 October 2012). Foremost among the cases presumably to be examined by DHS’s Inspector General is Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, who died at the border near San Diego.  A video recently emerged which depicts what looks like blatant brutality against Hernandez-Rojas as he is repeatedly tazered while lying on the ground, surrounded by Border Patrol agents.  And last week at the border in Nogales, Arizona, a Border Patrol agent shot a young boy, aged 16, who allegedly was throwing rocks.  There are, as well, a number of other cases since 2010 in which Border Patrol agents have used deadly force.  To date there are, according to one independent report, eighteen individuals who have been killed by Border Patrol agents (Las Vegas Sun, 25 October 2012).

But what is not being investigated by DHS’ Office of the Inspector General is the risky and dangerous work of being a border guard. On the one hand, the marked decline in professional training recruits receive at their national training academy in New Mexico, and, on the other hand, the replacement of Vietnam-era ground sensors along the border with state-of-the-art sensors. 

Construction of the 650 miles of fencing along the Mexican border, completed in 2012, along with the installation of surveillance technology including drones, have made it much more difficult for border crossers to illegally enter the United States.  Certain places along our 2,000 border are now much harder to cross, thus funneling illegal immigrants to a limited number of areas where they are much more likely to encounter the Border Patrol. At the same time, the number of Border Patrol agents has increased in the last decade from approximately 3,500 to 24,000.   So the good news is that fewer illegal immigrants are successfully entering our country as reflected in Border Patrol statistics.

The bad news is that violence against agents is increasing along with the number of illegal border-crossers who are dying at the hands of border agents.

While the use of deadly force is certainly of concern, it is mindless for any investigation to ignore the high-risk work of