Secrets of the Patrol

The motive behind the June 2010 death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas at the hands of agents of the Border Patrol might have never been known if not for new footage which emerged two years later showing the brutal beating of the immigrant.

The killing would have simply disappeared given the false statements made by agents involved in the incident and because no internal system exists within the Patrol to identify cases of “excessive force.”

The latter is the conclusion of an internal report done by the Department of Justice at the request of 16 members of Congress after the revelations over the death of Hernandez Rojas. Basically, the Patrol has no category for allegations of excessive force thereby making these cases difficult to track and investigate.

This situation is the result of a standard use-of-force policy established in October 2010 developed and negotiated with the agents’ union.

It is unacceptable that the largest police force in the nation, with more than 21,000 agents and responsible for at least 19 deaths since 2010, has no tracking system similar to that which exists in the majority of police departments across the country.

No doubt the Department of Homeland Security is accustomed to secrets but those are in order to protect national security and not to shield agents who abuse their power.

The report’s conclusion warrants criticism as well because it simply refers the Border Patrol to work with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to find a way to identify allegations of excessive force.

Much more transparency is needed. It is essential to fix the tracking system as well as, for example, to place cameras on agents’ jackets as is already done in a number of police departments.

The undocumented who are arrested by the Border Patrol have none of the protections granted to residents and citizens. That said, they deserve to be treated humanely by the authorities and agents who should be held responsible for their actions regardless of who is being detained.