The U.S. Border Patrol is facing criticism at the United Nations for killing Mexicans.
On Thursday, The American Civil Liberties Union brought a list of alleged human rights violations at the U.S.-Mexico border before the U.N. General Assembly. The ACLU's remarks were made in front of a a panel discussing human rights issues on international borders organized by the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights.
“We are deeply concerned by these systematic abuses,” said ACLU researcher Jennifer Turner. “It is essential that the United States launch a comprehensive external investigation in addition to the Department of Homeland Security’s internal review.”
The ACLU wants the Border Patrol to change the rules governing how agents use force in the field, among other demands. Current Border Patrol policy allows agents to shoot if they believe their lives are in danger, according to the Associated Press. That authorization has been used by agents to respond, among other situations, to individuals throwing rocks. Government investigators are now reviewing the policy.
The Border Patrol has drawn sharp criticism recently for killing a series of Mexican nationals. In the latest case, agents on the Mexican border with Arizona fired a total of 14 shots at 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez earlier this month, killing him. The agents suspected Elena Rodríguez of smuggling drugs and say he refused orders to stop throwing rocks.
Elena Rodríguez’s funeral itself became a source of tension along the border, as his family and friends carried the boy's coffin past the border fence separating the Mexican and American cities of Nogales.
In another highly publicized case, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was killed by the Border Patrol in San Diego. Agents say he was combative and coroners found traces of methamphetamines in his blood.
But an eyewitness video aired by PBS showed some a dozen agents hovering over Hernández Rojas, who lay screaming on the ground as they tased him.
Watch the PBS report on Herández Rojas’ killing below. Warning: contains disturbing images.
A total of 18 people died in cases of alleged excessive force by Border Patrol officials since 2010, according to the ACLU. Eight of those cases involved rock throwing. Agents have typically argued that they acted in self defense and have rarely been punished, according to The Los Angeles Times.
The ACLU also criticized before the international body a program that jails immigrants who cross illegally en masse called “Operation Streamline.” Implemented in 2005, Operation Streamline allows participating jurisdictions along the U.S.-Mexico border to immediately try and convict apprehended immigrants of crossing illegally and sentence them to up to six months in jail. Repeat crossers can face stiffer sentences.
The federal government doubled the number of Border Patrol agents to 21,444 between the 2000 fiscal year and 2011, according to the ACLU.