Border Patrol agents are firing tear gas and powerful pepper-spray weapons across the border into Mexico to repel what the agency says are an increasing number of attacks by assailants hurling rocks, bottles and bricks.
Good! It is about time they did something to defend themselves.
The counteroffensive has drawn complaints that innocent families are being caught in the crossfire.
“A neighbor shouted, ‘Stop it! There are children living here,” said Esther Arias Medina, 41, who on Wednesday fled her Tijuana, Mexico, shanty with her 3-week-old grandson after the infant began coughing from smoke that seeped through the walls.
A helmeted agent on the U.S. side said nothing as he stood with a rifle on top of a 10-foot border fence next to the three-room home that Arias shares with six others.
“We don’t deserve this,” Arias said. “The people who live here don’t throw rocks. Those are people who come from the outside, but we’re paying the price.”
That is right! That is how it works, if your government, fellow citizens and police cannot control these people, we will. Unfortunately for you, you will suffer for their actions.
The Border Patrol says its agents have been attacked nearly 1,000 times during a one-year period.
The agency’s top official in San Diego, Mike Fisher, said agents are taking action because Mexican authorities have been slow to respond. When an attack happens, he said, American authorities often wait hours for them to come, and help usually never arrives.
“We have been taking steps to ensure that our agents are safe,” Fisher said.
Mexico’s acting consul general in San Diego, Ricardo Pineda, has insisted that U.S. authorities stop firing onto Mexican soil. He met with Border Patrol officials last month after the agency fired tear gas into Mexico. The agency defended that counterattack, saying agents were being hit with a hail of ball bearings from slingshots in Mexico.
Tough! Your citizen’s are attacking our Border Patrol on U.S. soil! We will defend ourselves!
Agent Joseph Ralph estimates he has been struck by rocks 20 times since joining the Border Patrol in 1987, once fracturing a shoulder blade. “You find yourself trying to take cover,” he said.
About four months ago, a large rock struck the hood of agent Ellery Taylor’s vehicle. “The only thing you can think is, ‘I’m glad that that wasn’t my head.’ There’s no way to see it coming,” Taylor said.
In October, agents in California and Arizona received compressed-air guns that shoot pepper-spray canisters more than 200 feet. Agents already had less powerful pepper-launchers that lose their punch after about 30 feet — even less if absorbed by thick clothing or cardboard.
The Border Patrol says the pepper weapons are a less lethal alternative to regular guns, but they have caused at least one fatality. In October 2004, a college student died after she was struck in the eye by a pepper-spray canister that officers fired to control a celebration of the Red Sox’s pennant win.
Border Patrol SWAT teams along the 1,952-mile U.S.-Mexico border are also equipped with tear gas, “flash bombs” that emit blinding light and “sting ball” grenades that disperse hundreds of tiny rubber pellets.
U.S. officials say the new tactics may spare lives. An agent shot and killed a 20-year-old Mexican man whose arm was cocked back in March in Calexico, Calif., where rock attacks have soared in the last year. Two years ago, an agent fatally shot a rock thrower at the San Diego-Tijuana border.
No criminal charges were filed in either case.
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