MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you follow the news along the US-Mexican border, it sometimes appears that the approximately 20,000 US Border Patrol agents and officers are given free reign to engage in human rights abuses and violent acts against undocumented immigrants.
That's not to say that every Border Patrol officer or agent is brutal and indifferent, but there is clear evidence many of them act that way, and the system that keeps them in place fuels this ongoing violence.
In some ways it is shocking - and in some ways it is inevitable - that a Border Patrol officer in the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas kidnapped a mother and her two 14-year-old daughters crossing the border and sexually assaulted them. As a regional newspaper, The Monitor, reported on March 13:
A US Border Patrol agent came across two girls and a woman near the Rio Grande before dusk Wednesday, when he took them into his custody, investigators said.
But rather than arrest the Honduran nationals suspected of an immigration violation, he broke the law himself.
Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares, 32, raped the woman and slashed her wrists. He then turned to her 14-year-old daughter and sexually assaulted her, as well, and tried to break her neck. The girl passed out as a result.
Eventually, the mother and one daughter escaped. Manzanares kidnapped the other 14 year old and abducted her to his house, where he continued to sexually assault her - and eventually committed suicide as police were closing in on him. The mother and daughters survived.
If you want to get your arms around the psychology of many Border Patrol officers and agents, just read one of the web comments (from a US civilian) about The Monitor article detailing the horrifying incident. A reader, identified as Bernie Munoz, writes: "Hopefully this will discourage some illegal aliens from breaking federal law and coming into our country illegally."
Again, it would be unfair to taint every Border Patrol agent with this violent action, but as the reader comment reflects: The Border Patrol is now a massive militarized agency that has as its tacit premise that undocemented illegals are something less than human.
The Real Grande Equal Voice Network, working to empower the lower-income community of their area near Brownsville, issued a statement on its website about the horrifying incident:
Michael Seifert, the Equal Voice Network Weaver and a longtime border resident wondered, “What if the agent had not killed himself? Would the public have even known of the violence done to these women? How many more of these atrocities take place? Will these women, already victimized by a uniformed representative of the US Government, be further humiliated when they are “processed” as people who unlawfully entered the United States?”
Juanita Valdez Cox of La Union del Pueblo Entero, an organization that has members living in the area where the women were first attacked, said, “It is shameful that by neglecting the proper training and supervision of their agents, Border Patrol allowed this to happen. While some may say it is an isolated case, there are too many of these isolated cases of abuse by Border Patrol agents and Border Patrol has done too little to address the problem. 28 individuals have lost their lives over the last three years following an encounter with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel. Countless more have suffered abuse varying from denial of water to mental and emotional torture. We are tired of dealing with the consequences of CBP’s reckless disregard for human rights and it needs to stop."
A recent Los Angeles Times article, in which Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher stated guidelines on the US of deadly force were going to become more restrictive, detailed the ongoing lack of transparency in following up on Border Patrol shootings that resulted in injury or death:
Customs and Border Protection officials have refused to say how many agents have faced disciplinary action since 2010 for inappropriate use of force.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), the top Democrat on the House immigration policy and border security subcommittee, also called on Customs and Border Protection to be more forthcoming.
"When there are incidents in terms of injury or even death, there needs to be transparent investigations and there needs to be a public resolution of what they found," she said.
Interestingly, Shawn P. Moran, vice president of the Border Patrol agents' union, told The Los Angeles Times: "We will oppose any restriction on the ability of agents to use force"
A poster for the Real Grande Equal Voice Network trumpets: "Revitalize Not Militarize Border Communities."
That goal cannot come soon enough for people taking great risks to survive -- and being treated by an official US police agency as sub-humans.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.