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Border Agents Are Finally Using Less Force Against Immigrants

FILE — In this Jan. 4, 2016 file photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent drives near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Sunland Park, N.M. A complaint filed by advocacy groups alleges that U.S. Border Patrol agents are looting immigrants of possessions before deporting them to Mexico without their IDs or money. The ACLU of New Mexico and a coalition of organizations filed the administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, April 6, and say the alleged seizures are putting migrants at the US-Mexico in harm’s way. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RUSSELL CONTRERAS, FILE
FILE — In this Jan. 4, 2016 file photo, a U.S. Border Patrol agent drives near the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Sunland Park, N.M. A complaint filed by advocacy groups alleges that U.S. Border Patrol agents are looting immigrants of possessions before deporting them to Mexico without their IDs or money. The ACLU of New Mexico and a coalition of organizations filed the administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday, April 6, and say the alleged seizures are putting migrants at the US-Mexico in harm’s way. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RUSSELL CONTRERAS, FILE

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency reported a 26 percent decline in using some type of force against border crossers last year — a statistic that suggests border agents may be getting better at interacting with migrants as the agency has been plagued with criticism for its lack of transparency.  The agency reported 756 uses of force in the 2015 fiscal year, a sharp drop from 1,037 in the previous year. According to a CBP press release, “this reduction is especially significant” because agents say there hasn’t been a decline in the number of assaults against them. The incidents were classified as either “firearm,” “less-lethal device,” or “other less lethal force,” with a CBP agent’s use of devices like a baton or an electronic control weapon defined as “less-lethal.”

U.S. border agents fired their weapons 23 times in the 2015 fiscal year, with agents in California’s San Diego sector firing their weapons six times. Despite its 420-mile, barren landscape, agents manning Texas’ Big Bend sector fired their weapons five times in the same time period.

This is the first time that the CBP broke down its use of force data among its 18 sectors. The agency previously only provided the total number of reported incidents.

How One Man Is Hoping To End The U.S. Border Protection Agency’s ‘Culture Of Impunity’Immigration by CREDIT: AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi WASHINGTON, D.C. – Six years ago, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP…thinkprogress.orgThe overall decline in the number of use of force incidents is promising given CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske’s goal of greater transparency, which prompted the agency to release updated guidelines for using force in 2014.

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Still, advocates have criticized the agency for continuing to hold off on giving agents body-worn cameras to track the way they’re interacting with border crossers. CBP says that more studies need to be done before camera technology can be effectively deployed in the field.  “We commend Commissioner Kerlikowske’s decision to release statistics on use-of-force incidents,” Christian Ramirez, the director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition and Human Rights Director at Alliance San Diego, said in a press statement. “It is a step towards greater transparency for CBP. However, meaningful transparency in the form of body-worn cameras must be implemented and accompanied with robust accountability mechanisms in order to address the culture of impunity that has plagued CBP.”

Despite the decline, there is little relief for families of migrants killed during encounters with border agents. For instance, Anastasio Hernández Rojas, an undocumented Mexican national, died six years ago after border agents surrounded and beat him as he was handcuffed and laying face down. The Department of Justice (DOJ) said last year that it would not pursue federal criminal civil rights or other federal charges against the federal agents involved in the in-custody altercation, citing “insufficient” evidence.