Human rights advocates and civil rights groups say the lives of border crossers don’t matter to the law enforcement agencies charged with guarding the U.S. border. An internal investigation of 67 shootings carried out by agents of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency has cleared nearly every patrolman of wrongdoing, the Los Angeles Times reported Monday.
In all but three of the shootings, which left 19 people dead, criminal misconduct charges will not be filed against the agents, officials confirmed. The internal investigation was completed last month.
Anthony Triplett, an official who directed the Border Patrol investigation, said two agents did face disciplinary action. But both received oral reprimands.
Activists along the southwest U.S. border and in Mexico have argued that Border Patrol agents are rarely held accountable in cases of alleged abuses. The internal investigation isn’t good enough, a civil rights group said.
"Turning the page doesn't mean burying the past," Chris Rickerd, a border security expert at the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Los Angeles Times. "There is no assurance to border residents that agents who have used excessive, improper lethal force aren't on the job in their communities."
Incidents in which agents have been cleared include the fatal shooting of an unarmed 15-year-old Mexican boy, who threw rocks at agents in El Paso, Texas, in 2010. An Arizona-based agent who killed another teenage boy for throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border fence in 2011 was cleared.
A 19-year-old U.S. citizen who climbed over a border fence into Mexico from Arizona in 2011 was killed by agents, after he allegedly drove a narcotics-laden truck into a Border Patrol vehicle. The agents were also cleared in that incident.
Human rights activists blasted the internal review. "We are deeply disappointed" with the lack of action against the agents, Juanita Molina, executive director of the Arizona-based human rights group Border Action Network, told the LA Times. "When you have someone throwing rocks and someone responding with lethal force, it is just not proportional."
Three pending cases from 2012 could result in criminal charges against agents, if the U.S. Department of Justice pursues civil rights charges. The agents in those cases were still patrolling the border, officials said.