Why Are U.S. Border Guards Shooting Into Mexico?

With the debate over immigration reform heating up and with all sides in agreement that any deal must include tougher security on the Mexican border, a new investigation by the Washington Monthly and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute reveals an alarming truth about our already-militarized border: Over the past five years U.S. border agents have shot across the border into Mexico at least ten times, killing a total of six Mexicans on Mexican soil.

In one case, agents killed a thirty-year-old father of four while he was collecting firewood along the banks of the Rio Grande. In another, a fifteen-year-old was shot while watching a Border Patrol agent apprehend a migrant. In yet another, agents shot a thirty-six-year-old man while he was having a picnic to celebrate his daughters’ birthdays.

These and other killings by U.S. border agents, some never before reported in the national media, are laid out in gripping detail by journalist John Carlos Frey in the May/June issue of the Washington Monthly. Frey reveals an agency operating with thousands of poorly trained rookies and failing to provide the kind of transparency, accountability, and clear rules of engagement that Americans routinely expect of law enforcement agencies. If the system is not improved and these kinds of killings continue, it is easy to imagine the U.S. not only being assailed by human rights activists around the world, but also compromising its standing to pressure other countries, such as Israel, to refrain from firing on unarmed citizens across their borders.

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Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. He was an editor at the magazine from 1986 to 1988.