Political Animal


May 07, 2013 8:55 AM Why Are U.S. Border Guards Shooting Into Mexico?

By Paul Glastris

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.

Read “Over the Line”

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly.


  • c u n d gulag on May 07, 2013 9:16 AM:

    US Border Agents?

    Sweet Jayzoos!

    I could understand how some armed local yahoo might decide to have a bit of target practice on some poor Mexican guy who took his kids picnicing near the border.
    (Well, not really, but...)

    But but actual agents?

    No excuse.
    Punish those reponsible with charges of murder or manslaughter as an example, try them, and then re-train the rest of the Border Agents not to shoot people, unless they're an immediate threat.

    Somehow or other, agents need to know grilling, from killing.

  • Antoine Doinel on May 07, 2013 9:20 AM:

    Exactly how many missiles have been fired from Mexico into the dear old USA in the past 5 years?

  • Blue Girl on May 07, 2013 9:40 AM:

    This has been going on a hell of a lot longer than five years. Am I the only one who remembers Esequiel Hernandez?

  • Smedley on May 07, 2013 9:43 AM:

    Liberals actually think that their elected officials are in charge of the National Security State. It's enough to make one weep that after 65 years of the cancer-like growth of the Military-Industrial Complex, there are still people who believe they live in a democracy.

  • Bob R. on May 07, 2013 10:16 AM:

    "This is not Nam, Sparky. There are rules here..."


  • Zorro on May 07, 2013 10:41 AM:

    Is there any doubt whatsoever that, had one Mexican border patrol agent fired over into the US side of the border and killed a US citizen, there would be calls for a declaration of war against the Yellow Terror (or whatever epithet the wingnut right would choose)?


  • smartalek on May 07, 2013 12:28 PM:

    You are right; no doubt whatsoever-- a Kelvin zero.
    As to the epithet of choice, no doubt about that either. It's the one Rep Don Young (R-Dipshit, Alaska) deployed in a radio interview barely more than a month ago:


    NSFW, obviously.

  • Linda J on May 07, 2013 7:56 PM:

    Hint: Did Israel train these border police shooting into Mexico? Bc this is what they do to Palestinians.

  • Werewolf on May 07, 2013 9:17 PM:

    @Linda J:


  • Big Daddy Don on May 08, 2013 9:23 AM:

    They have to practice somewhere; it might as well be on Mexico - the toilet-bowl of Osama Obama's latest apology. Feck 'em - just feck 'em! No big loss. They kill our economy - we get even! Rock on Border Patrol Agents ROCK ON!

  • John A. Randolph on May 10, 2013 12:42 PM:

    Angry people will throw rocks; angry people will shoot guns and two corrupt governments will rape their own citizens and wonder why the poor throw rocks and agents shoot them?

    Thank you to John Carlos Frey for bringing attention to these alarming USBP shootings.

    As a retired US Border Patrol/INS/ICE agent, I am of course not surprised that this happens. Yet the increased frequency of these shootings that appear to be cold blooded murder is very alarming.

    My work experience has shaped my perception of border issues. I have always been disillusioned about our country's approach to illegal immigration and the realities of the border insanity that our young agents must face.

    I had troubling questions as a young agent that I still have now:

    Why do we chase people around at night like animals when many of those same people are the very people US farmers pay to harvest our food? What causes these people to leave their homes and risk sneaking into our country? Why does our government fail to give us (The US Border Patrol) the required or necessary resources to stop the problem? Are there some type of underlying reasons that would explain why our leaders really do not want illegal immigration effectively stopped?

    My understanding today: the bi-national elite (US/Mexico) profit off of illegal immigrants and pass the costs and consequences on to the US taxpayers. Those elite have created and institutionalized corporations that not only profit from illegal immigration, but profit from the ineffective enforcement of illegal immigration too.

    Back to border shootings. Border Patrol agents have to shut off common sense, rational thinking and human feelings in order to do their jobs. They know that the vast majority of the people who they catch are honest, hard-working people trying to make better lives for themselves and their families. If these agents can feel at all, they have to feel extreme frustration when one country pushes its poor here, and our country allows those people to be pushed here.

    My disillusion with the above system increased ten-fold once I saw not only a young undocumented kid die, but I saw one of my co-worker my friends get murdered from this work too.

    Back to border shootings. Ultimately the responsibility lies with the agents who break the rules. What also must be taken into consideration are the conditions created by an entire system of bi-national greed that requires the dehumanization of not only the agents who perform its duties, but the undocumented who are the pawns of that bi-national system too.

    As with our US soldiers, who can say if the conditions which our government creates and puts our young agents in does not profoundly increase the probability that these young agents might snap?