Controversial photographs from a recent Border Patrol event show agents teaching children to aim and shoot a paintball gun at a human-shaped target. Immigrant activists have accused Border Patrol of using this activity to encourage children how to shoot immigrants in an area where migrants have died.
“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,” Immigrants Rights Consortium’s Pedro Rios said, according to NBC San Diego News. “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.”
Border Patrol claims it is “standard” practice to use targets dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. It denies, however, that the target was meant to look specifically like an immigrant, and said the “activity was meant to create awareness about law enforcement tools used to address some violent situations without the use of deadly force.”
“The photos in question are from an activity at the event that allowed members of the community to fire a pepper ball launch system that had been loaded with ‘inert rounds’ — filled with a baby powder-type substance to be able to see whether the intended target had been hit,” a spokesperson said. “The target is a standard practice used by law enforcement and even amateurs throughout the U.S., and is clothed in plain jeans and a t-shirt, also standard when conducting exercises/demonstrations.”
Local activists maintain the activity was insensitive, especially at a time Border Patrol is under scrutiny for deadly force in suspicious circumstances. Since 2010, border patrol has killed more than 20 people. One was a 16-year-old Mexican boy. Today, Customs and Border Protection has refused to curb its policy to use deadly force against rock-throwers, defying recommendations to reconsider.
This post originally said 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was throwing rocks at a border fence before he had been shot. The agents fired after being pelted with rocks. No witnesses saw who had thrown them, and his body was found on a sidewalk not far from the fence.