NPR Story
2:36 pm
Mon June 24, 2013

Investigative Journalists Award Border Patrol Unhelpful, Closed Doored Accolade

The non-profit Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) announced that the U.S. Border Patrol was the winner of the organization's first annual Golden Padlock Award.

The award raises awareness about an government agency or individual that has remained silent about pressing issues, failing to meet their civic duty of accountability. The award focused on deadly patrol shootings along the Southwest border.

The country’s largest law-enforcement agency was chosen among dozens of nominations from journalists and the public for refusing to make public the details of use-of-force incidents involving its agents. Despite a string of fatal incidents over the past three years in which Mexicans have been shot and killed by agents along the Southwest border, the Border Patrol routinely refuses to disclose the names of agents involved. And it has repeatedly stonewalled FOIA requests on the incidents filed by the Arizona Republic because the cases remained under investigation by the FBI, sometimes for years.

Since 2010, border patrol agents have killed 17 people along the U.S.-Mexico border under their use of force policy.

The policy allows agents to use lethal force if he or she feels that their life is in jeopardy. Although in each case agents reported they were under attack, it's hard to determine if the person killed was the one actually engaged in conflict.

As we reported, a 16 year old boy was killed by agents in October. The officers stated that they were under a barrage of rocks at the time and shot in self-defense.

But a recent autopsy shows that the boy who was shot in Mexico, was hit in back after he had already fallen. The Border Patrol agent who killed him remains unidentified.

The current immigration reform bill in congress offers little change to their current use of force policy:

Under the immigration reform bill, proposed changes to the policy are small. Within six months, Homeland Security and the Justice Department must establish a policy for accepting and investigating complaints. That happens already, but at a snail’s pace. The overall policy itself will also be reviewed. But the secretive aspects of the investigations remain unchanged. The proposal doesn’t require investigators to inform the public of the investigations.

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