An Arizona Republic investigation found that Border Patrol agents who use deadly force face few, if any, public repercussions, even in cases in which the justification for the shooting seems dubious. Since 2005, on-duty Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers have killed at least 42 people, including at least 13 Americans. These deaths, all but four of which occurred along or near the southwest border, vary from strongly justifiable to highly questionable.
Federal officials say agents who use excessive force are disciplined. They won't say who, when, or what discipline, with the exception of a short administrative leave. In none of the 42 deaths is an agent or officer publicly known to have faced consequences — not from the departments of Homeland Security or Justice, and not, ultimately, from criminal or civil courts. Internal discipline is a black hole. There have been no publicly disclosed repercussions — even when, as has happened at least three times, agents shot unarmed teenagers in the back. That appearance of a lack of accountability has been fed by a culture of secrecy about agents' use of deadly force. Customs and Border Protection agency leaders refuse to release their policies, calling them law-enforcement sensitive.