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Revised Border Patrol Handbook

July 22, 2014 | Posted In Immigration

Earlier this year, the Customs and Border Control (CBP) released a revised handbook that covers the border patrol’s use of force when dealing with immigrants who are attempting to breach the United States borders. After several years of violence and fatalities, with a high death count for those seeking refuge in America, the CBP has revised their standards regarding appropriate use of force, in what immigration lawyers in New Jersey and around the country hope is a positive change for immigrants hoping to cross the border. 

Billions of dollars have been spent on securing the border—outfitting guards and patrolmen, building physical walls, setting up aircraft patrols and electronic sensors, and housing those would-be border crossers who have been caught and imprisoned. The cost of human life is also high, as increased border security has pushed human smuggling routes out into the deserts, where conditions are treacherous and the route is often fatal, and in recent shooting incidents that have left unarmed immigrants dead or severely wounded. 

After several media pieces questioned the need for such excessive force from the border patrol, the CBP commissioned the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to do an independent review of the incidents in question and of the policies in place at the time. PERF provides research-based counsel to police agencies and law enforcement teams for policy and practice changes, and recommended several updates based on their results. Although the study was completed in February 2013, the results were not made public until May of this year, giving the CBP time to make several improvements. The revised Use of Force Policy, Guidelines and Procedures Handbook was released in conjunction with PERF’s report, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Use of Force Review: Cases and Policies

In their report, PERF noted two specific areas of concern, where use of excessive force could have been avoided. Border patrol officers were reported shooting into moving vehicles, as well as firing at people who were throwing “objects not capable of causing serious physical injury or death to them.” To eliminate this use of excessive force, PERF recommended that the CBP implement better reporting of all rock-throwing and related incidents, including assault of a border patrol agent, to better control the situations and establish evidence of the threats present to CBP officers. 

Additionally, PERF recommended that the CBP immediately begin mandatory investigations into all uses of deadly force, to eliminate the existing “no-harm-no-foul” environment, in which CBP launched investigations into only uses of force that resulted in death or serious injury. PERF also advised that CBP officers be equipped with less deadly weapons, to provide an alternative to deadly force, and be better protected from rock attacks, and outfitted with face shields, helmets, and protective cages on their vehicles.  

With these measures in place, combined with better training for de-escalation of hostile situations, and a mandate that no officers be allowed to fire into a moving vehicle without proper provocation, the CBP Use of Force policy will be updated to reflect a less violent allowance for deadly force usage. CBP has revised their policy currently to instruct officers to “employ enforcement tactics and techniques that effectively bring an incident under control, while promoting…safety.” Following the PERF report, there is hope that less fatalities and tragedies will be reported from the country’s borders. 

At New Jersey law firm Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, our immigration attorneys represent anyone who has traveled to this country from outside, in the hopes of gaining citizenship, employment, or other opportunities within America. Contact an HCK attorney today for a free, no-strings consultation about your case. 

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