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Friday, March 14, 2014 - 7:50pm
El Paso, TX (KDBC) — U.S. Border Patrol agents are now being told to avoid using deadly force as a response to having objects, including rocks, thrown at them.
U.S. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher released the memo last Friday. In it, he said the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's use-of-force police would be released. The memo instructs Border Patrol agents who have rocks thrown at them to take cover or call for back-up, instead of firing their weapons.
Stu Harris, Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council, said the change could put agents in danger.
"To place restrictions on our agents, or anything that is going to cause them to hesitate, is dangerous and puts them at risk," said Harris.
Terri Burke, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Texas said it's a step in the right direction, but said more needs to be done.
"I don't understand how you use a gun on someone who throws a rock. We just want to see a more forceful effort on the part of the CPB and Border Patrol to say, 'We're not going to allow the use of lethal force in situations where it's not necessary," said Burke.
In 2010 a Border Patrol agent shot and killed a 15-year-old Sergio Guereca after he said the Juarez teen threw rocks at him while he was making an arrest.
Harris said a misconception is that agents aren't in danger when rocks are thrown at them.
"The rocks that are being thrown at our agents are meant to cause harm, even death," said Harris.
Congressman Beto O'Rourke agrees that it's necessary for agents to act when they're in danger, but said oversight is still needed.
"We do want to make sure that they have recourse to use force if it's absolutely necessary, but I think these new guidelines and directives just make it clear that that use of force should really on be a last resort," said O'Rourke.
O'Rourke has previously asked CBP to release its use of force manual.
O'Rourke is co-sponsoring a bill with Congressman Steve Pearce that would create a Border Oversight Commission to review and improve policies within Border Patrol and CBP. It would also create an independent office for people to file complaints if they feel they've been mistreated at the border.
O'Rourke said the bill would prevent cases like the one at the El Paso/Juarez border in December in which a New Mexico woman claimed CBP agents looking for drugs performed illegal cavity searched and anal exams on her in El Paso against her will.
O'Rourke said he and Pearce plan to present the bill later this month.