Dem border lawmakers: Violent incidents will come with enforcement

Several Democratic lawmakers representing districts along the U.S.-Mexico border say that more violent episodes, such as the recent killing of a Mexican teenager by a U.S. Border Patrol officer, can be expected as the region’s law enforcement is heightened.

The killing of the teenager in the Mexico border city of Ciudad Juarez last week comes on the heels of an incident on May 31 at a San Diego border crossing, in which a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer shocked a Mexican man to death.

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The two deaths are being investigated by the FBI and have caused an uproar of outrage from the Mexican government, which says the U.S. officials used levels of force that exceeded what the situation warranted.

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Border, Maritime, and Global Counterterrorism Chairman Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) is awaiting the results of the FBI’s probe and told The Hill that the subcommittee may launch oversight hearings depending on the results.

U.S. law enforcement presence along the border shouldn’t be deterred by the incident, Cuellar said, adding that more violence could be expected as the 1,200 National Guard troops that President Barack Obama ordered to the border two weeks ago begin to descend on the region.

“Certainly as you have more presence of Border Patrol and other federal officials on the border you’re going to probably run into more types of incidents like that,” said Cuellar. “Of course we don’t know what the facts are [of the recent killings]. Let’s see what the facts reveal and then we’ll take it from there.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), whose district also runs along the U.S.-Mexico border, agreed with Cuellar that more violence could occur in the near future, adding that tensions between the two countries are going to continue to escalate until Congress passes some form of comprehensive immigration legislation.

“I think [the killings] escalate the tension and when you escalate the tension bad things are going to happen,” said Grijalva in an interview. “The fact is that the enforcement part has been done to the hilt and then Obama’s latest announcement added to that. But we haven’t done anything about registering and identifying who’s here and putting them through a process of background checks to ensure they’re qualified to be here legally. I think that’s the next necessary step.


“And if we don’t do that, some of the building tensions you see on the border are going to continue.”

Attorney General Eric Holder told a reporter last week that the recent killing of the Mexican 15-year-old was “extremely regrettable,” but that it didn’t diminish the United States’s relationship with Mexico.

But Mexican officials are calling the case a homicide and entertaining the possibility of trying the U.S. official responsible for the teen’s death in Mexico.  

According to media reports, the Border Patrol official was attempting to detain illegal immigrants crossing into the United States along the Rio Grande near El Paso, Texas. A group of Mexicans on the Mexico side of the border was throwing rocks toward him and he opened fire on the group, striking and killing the teenager.

The Associated Press reported that Mexican authorities found a bullet shell casing near the boy’s body, which was shot at close range according to an autopsy report. It suggests that the U.S. official may have been on the Mexican side of the border when he fired his weapon — a move, which if true, would violate the two countries' border protection rules.