UPDATE, February 1, 2014, 1:30pmET: looks like the Facebook photos have been taken down. But they are still here. The following images were pulled from that site:
ORIGINAL STORY PUBLISHED EARLIER ON FEBRUARY 1, 2014
So those pictures of kids shooting paintball pellets at cutouts of migrant targets with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents? Several of them were on Facebook since July, 2013, as part of a San Diego Fallen Agents Memorial Run. You can see the entire photo album here.
Even more troubling is that a few of the pictures show Latino kids shooting at the targets.
As you can imagine, a few took to Facebook to share their disgust when the photos were posted:
Pedro Ríos, Chair of the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, states, “The target is dressed to resemble a migrant and is located within 100 feet from Virginia Avenue where actual persons have been killed by Border Patrol gunfire.”
Mr. Ríos continues, “While encouraging children to use guns to shoot at a migrant effigy is unconscionable, it is also symbolic of the agency’s unabashed culture of violence which has grown
from a lack of accountability, oversight and unprofessional standards that rebuke best practices in situations involving use-of-force.”
These images surface at a moment when Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) use-of-force policies has come under wide scrutiny resulting from the killings of over 20 unarmed civilians since 2010.
Mounting pressure from affected families, human rights organizations, members of Congress, and international bodies including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, have pushed the Department of Homeland Security to begin investigating these cases as well as CBP’s use-of-force practices. Additionally, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) was hired by CBP to issue an independent audit of the agency’s cases involving use-of-force.
Here are some other Facebook pictures of the 2013 event:
According to CBP, a statement called media reports of the migrant target practice “patently false” and that CPB “takes pride in participating in community events to help build awareness about our activities and operations.”
In addition, reports from California press show that CBP believes this is all being blown out of proportion. Here is what MercuryNews.com reported:
For safety reasons, agents decided to put the shooting range against the wall, which is owned by the Border Patrol but is a barrier to mark the mall’s private property from federal land, [Border Patrol spokesman Paul D. Carr] said. The actual border fence is behind the wall, though the two barriers are both made of corrugated metal and look the same.
He also denied that the target was intended to resemble an immigrant.
“The target is a standard practice target used by law enforcement and even amateurs throughout the U.S., and is clothed in plain jeans and a t-shirt,” he said.
Rios’ group released the photo Friday, and the Border Patrol acknowledged its authenticity while disputing the activist group’s interpretation.
The agency said the event was “meant to bring members of the community together to build relationships and increase awareness about law enforcement,” and included all kinds of activities including a fun run to honor fallen border agents.
“This specific activity was meant to create awareness about law enforcement tools used to address some violent situations without the use of deadly force,” Carr said in the statement.
El País adds additional information about the 2013 event in a Spanish-language article.