Border Patrol’s 21 Killings: Itchy Trigger Fingers Or Restrained Force?


The U.S. Border Patrol has fatally shot 21 civilians since 2010. McClatchy Newspapers say the killings expose what civil rights advocates assert are far-reaching problems in the largest federal law enforcement agency. Those problems, critics charge, include a resistance to adopting safeguards on the use of lethal force, watered-down training standards amid rapid expansion and a mentality that anything goes in the battle to secure U.S. borders. Of the 21 dead, 16 were Mexican or Guatemalan. Most of the victims were unarmed, and some were on Mexican soil. One was a 16-year-old shot multiple times in the back as he stood on the Mexican side of the border fence.

No shooters is known to have been disciplined, and the circumstances of most cases have not been aired in public. The spate of homicides raises an uncomfortable question: Do Border Patrol agents have a green light to fire on and kill Mexican and Central American migrants? “You're working in remote areas that are intimidating and desolate. You're often many miles from backup. You're dealing with groups that outnumber you and that you must handle alone,” said Shawn Moran, a spokesman for the National Border Patrol Council, a union for agents. “To claim that the Border Patrol has an itchy trigger finger, we dismiss that. It's a very restrained force.”

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