“Some of the most disturbing incidents include an agent shooting and killing a teenager across the border in Mexico; agents neglecting a dying 16-year-old on a Border Patrol cell floor; and agents engaging in deadly high-speed car chases,” the ACLU of Texas said.
The above cases alone are horrific and disturbing. In the first example noted by the ACLU of Texas, 15-year-old Sergio Hernández Guereca was shot in the head by a Border Patrol agent while playing with friends at the Rio Grande in 2010. They had dared each other to run up toward the U.S. side of the border and touch the barrier’s barbed wire. For that, Hernández Guereca was killed by Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. The agent had claimed that the boys had been throwing rocks at him. That was later shown to be a lie.
But in a 5-4 decision last year, the Supreme Court’s conservative justices ruled in an opinion authored by Samuel Alito that “Sergio’s parents could not sue Mr. Mesa without congressional authorization,” The New York Times reported.
The tracker “reveals concerning trends” in recent years, the ACLU of Texas continued. Of 34 in-custody deaths tracked since 2010, 28 have occurred since 2017. Of 56 car chase-related deaths since 2010, 39 have occurred since 2017. And of the 12 children who have died in the agency’s custody since 2010, eight have been since 2017. “Despite CBP’s long record of negligence and abuse, no agent has faced meaningful consequences for deaths that have occurred on the agency’s watch,” the organization said.
There’s further been injustice even within the rare instances of a hint of justice. Before leaving office last January, the previous president issued full pardons to not one, not two, but three former agents who were charged and found guilty of crimes against people at the border while on duty. The ACLU of Texas notes that only just now under the Biden administration will border agents be required to wear body cameras. “U.S. border authorities plan to deploy a total of 7,500 body-worn cameras, with 6,000 in the field by the end of the year,” Reuters reported. The oversight is desperately needed. It also “underscores the lack of oversight the agency has had to date,” the ACLU of Texas said.
Just last week, the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties called on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to respond to a damning report by the ACLU of Michigan revealing widespread racial profiling of Latino residents by border agents. “Most of the people apprehended by CBP were of Latin American origin, and nearly half—over 45%—were either U.S. citizens or had another kind of lawful status in the country,” chair Jamie Raskin and committee member Rashida Tlaib wrote.
None of this even includes border agents stabbing jugs of water left by humanitarian aid workers along the harsh southern border desert, or the raiding of that humanitarian’s medical camp.
“The failure to hold CBP—the nation’s largest law enforcement agency—accountable has had deadly consequences,” said ACLU of Texas staff attorney Shaw Drake. “It is past time to overhaul this rogue agency that continues to harm migrants and border communities. People along the border have the same constitutional rights as everyone else in this country, yet Border Patrol agents routinely violate people’s rights and exceed the limits of their legal authority, often with impunity.”