Things That Matter

A New Report Shows That The US Military Can Now Open Fire On Moving Vehicles Along The Border

It is no secret that since he announced his candidacy for the presidency, now incumbent Donald J. Trump has made border security his priority. Data, of course, indicates that his administration sometimes reads the facts in a too creative way and tends to overestimate the amount of undocumented migrants that try to cross the US-Mexico border. 

Como es su costumbre, el presidente sometimes makes bold statements that seem to come out of nowhere and threaten relationships with Mexico. Many political pundits have judged this as mere posturing with no actual legal backing. But recent revelations have shed light on the fact that Trump might have had actual institutional backing for his outlandish claims.

Recently unveiled Pentagon documents reveal the extent of what US forces could do at US-Mexico ports of entry when judging there is a risk.

Credit: Instagram. @WyrdPhotography

Newsweek magazine got access to military documents that state that US forces have had much broader… liberties… than previously thought. These permissions by the higher command include shooting at moving vehicles across the border. This permission was granted in July, three days after Mark T. Esper was sworn in as Secretary of Defense. The reasoning behind this decision is the sporadic violent incidents involving migrants. However, these incidents have mostly happened in the Mexico-Guatemala border. 

The documents state that armed forces can shoot if there is “reasonable belief” that there is a risk to security.

This is where things get complicated, as the documents, according to Newsweek, don’t really specify what this “reasonable belief” entails or how servicemen and women make the call. Newsweek states: “The Defense Department guidelines indicate that military members can use lethal force when there is a “reasonable belief” that the vehicle is an imminent threat that will cause death or bodily harm to civilians in the immediate area. However, it is unclear what the Pentagon considers to be reasonable belief, raising concerns among legal experts and former government officials”. Seems like un cheque en blanco. And these are people’s lives at stake we are talking about. Critics and legal experts argue that this move is incredibly dangerous. 

But allowing to shoot at moving vehicles is dangerous, a clear and present threat to human lives.

Political vitriol and the tense situation experienced at the border are the perfect recipe for disaster, and a tragedy could happen. As Hina Shamsi, the director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, has said: “That permission is incredibly dangerous. Generally speaking, the trend for decades with respect to law enforcement agencies is a ban against officers shooting at a moving vehicle because it is likely to be ineffective and carries a high risk of lethal harm, including to bystanders”. 

So Donald Trump was not totally bluffing when he said they could shoot migrant caravans.

Credit: YouTube / The White House

Donald Trump turned many heads when he stated that the military would shoot weapons if migrants threw rocks. He said that they would consider any aggression with rocks or other objects “a firearm”. Trump was referencing previous outbursts of violence in which migrants confronted the Mexican authorities. At the time the claim seemed to be unsubstantiated in legal terms when it comes to rules of engagement, but the release of the Pentagon documents makes us think differently. This new revelation makes us increasingly uncomfortable when we remember that Trump wanted to protect the border with alligators and snakes, and wanted law enforcement agencies to shoot migrants on the legs, as per a The New York Times report

The document also reveals that the number of troops at the border could increase.

Just in July this year 2,000 additional troops were sent to the border to aid Border Patrol manage the flow of migrants, in particular leading to the approach of the Central American migrant caravan. There are currently 5,500 troops authorized to serve at the US-Mexico border, but the document implies that the number could increase if necessary. 

According to the leak, some servicemen have been allowed to enter into contact with migrants.

As per the documents obtained by Newsweek via a whistleblower, and later confirmed by two military sources, some special servicemen are exempt from the rule that states that they cannot enter into contact with migrants during their border mission. The report reads: “Army Lieutenant Colonel Chris Mitchell, a Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that on November 20, 2018, Trump authorized the Pentagon to “use military personnel to protect CBP personnel performing their Federal functions within property controlled by CBP at or adjacent to one or more CBP-designated [ports of entry].” This is a de facto, but bajita la mano, militarization of the border. 

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Mexican Army Wants To Pay Off Murder Victim’s Family With One Million Pesos In Cash

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Mexican Army Wants To Pay Off Murder Victim’s Family With One Million Pesos In Cash

The family of a man who was shot in the back and killed by a Mexican soldier is demanding better support from the Mexican military after officials offer them one million pesos, or about $49,000 USD.

Officials say that the Guatemalan man was in retreat from a military checkpoint near the southern border, when they admit that a soldier wrongfully shot at the man killing him.

Military officials are offering $1 million pesos to family of the Guatemalan man the army murdered.

The Mexican Army is offering 1 million pesos (about $49,000 USD) in compensation to the family of a Guatemalan man who was shot and killed by a Mexican soldier along a stretch of Mexico’s southern border.

The man, Elvin Mazariegos, 30, was killed by the army in the state of Chiapas by a soldier who opened fire on a car in which he was traveling with two other people.

According to Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval, the soldier shot at the vehicle as it tried to escape in reverse from a military checkpoint. He said the decision to shoot was an “erroneous reaction” because the military personnel hadn’t come under attack. The solider who shot Elvin Mazariegos was turned over to the federal Attorney General’s Office.

The family is asking for more support since Mazariegos was the family’s sole income earner.

Olga Mazariegos told the newspaper Reforma that the Mexican army had offered a single 1-million-peso payment to her brother’s family. But the family is also demanding monthly maintenance payments for Mazariego’s daughters, aged 9 and 5, and 2-year-old son, she said. She said their father was the sole income earner in his family.

“What we want is monthly maintenance, but they say that they’ll only give [a single payment of] approximately half a million quetzales,” Mazariegos said. At today’s exchange rate, 1 million pesos is in fact 377,300 quetzales.

The slain man’s sister said the army’s proposed payment will be insufficient for the man’s widow to maintain her family. “She’s left alone with her three children; what happened to my brother is not fair,” she said, adding that it was insulting for the army to say that his life was worth 1 million pesos.

Mazariegos murder comes as police brutality gains greater attention across Mexico.

Credit: PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

Residents near the border (including Guatemalans) have demanded justice. About 300 angry residents detained 15 other soldiers also deployed near the border. Nine soldiers were released about three hours after they were detained, while the others were set free in the early hours of Tuesday morning after Mexican officials reached a deal with the civilians to provide them with “economic reparation” for the killing. The army chief didn’t reveal how much money was paid to the angry residents.

The killing of Mazariegos came just two days after the death of a Salvadoran woman who was violently pinned to the ground while she was being arrested by municipal police in Tulum, Quintana Roo.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Photo via Getty Images

On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

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