Mexico Irate Over Border Patrol Use of Force Against Rock Attack

By Jessica M. Vaughan on February 25, 2014

Following the shooting death last week of a Mexican illegal alien with an extensive criminal record who assaulted a U.S. Border Patrol agent with rocks (one reportedly the size of a basketball), the government of Mexico is demanding that the Obama administration prohibit Border Patrol agents from using lethal force to protect themselves. Reports CNN:

"We also firmly reiterate that the use of lethal force in border control operations is unacceptable. The Government of Mexico expects the results of the investigations and that those responsible be held accountable," the Secretariat of Foreign Relations said in a statement Thursday.

Assaults on Border Patrol officers are a serious problem. According to a recent DHS internal audit, the number of assaults reported was 549 in 2012, down from about 1,000 a year from 2007 to 2010. Nearly all of them occurred on the U.S.-Mexico border.

From an Associated Press report:

Agents were attacked with rocks 339 times in the 2011 fiscal year, more than any other type of assault, according to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. They responded with gunfire 33 times and with less-than-lethal force — a category that includes pepper spray and batons — 118 times.

Rock attacks fell to 185 instances in fiscal 2012, becoming the second-most-common type of assault. Agents fired guns 22 times and responded 42 times with less-than-lethal force.

In 2012, responding to complaints from 16 members of Congress and illegal alien advocacy groups, the administration requested the DHS audit and also commissioned a study from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). The DHS audit recommended better record keeping, more analysis of incidents, and a review of training. PERF, which was created by the Ford Foundation to promote "progressive" policing, including reducing police use of force and discouraging immigration enforcement, predictably recommended that the Border Patrol be prohibited from using lethal force against rock-throwers.

In November 2013, following the release of both studies, Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher rejected PERF's recommendation on use of lethal force as too restrictive, and said the agency would stick with its current policies.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the controversial second-in-command appointee at DHS, has been more equivocal, telling reporters last week, "We are committed to ensuring the safety of our men and women who put their lives on the line at the border. At the same time we are committed to ensuring that use of force policy is a reflection of best practices." Sounds to me like policy changes are brewing, and I'm sure Mayorkas' favorite DHS and DOJ lawyers are busy combing the websites of the ACLU, PERF, and the most liberal suburban and college campus police departments in Canada for "best practices".

My own experience from law enforcement training programs where this is discussed is that local law enforcement officers typically are amazed at the restraint shown by Border Patrol agents who have rocks and other debris hurled at them as they try to make lawful arrests. Often the assailants are paid by smuggling organizations to attack agents in order to distract them from loads of people, drugs, and other contraband being moved across the border in another location.

One retired Border Patrol agent (and current CIS board member) sent the government of Mexico (via the Mexican consul in San Diego) the kind of reply that our own government will not. Wrote Mike Nicley:

The GOM [government of Mexico] does nothing to ease the violence associated with our chaotic border environment and their principal historical interest in the border region relates to extracting bribes from drug and/or alien smuggling organizations. The hypocritical GOM remains silent about the fact that the overwhelming majority of rapes, robberies, and homicides suffered by illegal Mexican border crossers are perpetrated by Mexican nationals who operate with impunity on the south side of the border.

Mr. Nicley has not received a response as of this writing, but I'll let you know if he does.