Juan Pablo Perez Santillan died seven weeks ago. He was allegedly shot by a Border Patrol agent who appears to have fired from the banks of the Rio Grande River in downtown Brownsville, Texas. Santillan was allegedly throwing rocks at the agent from the southern bank of the Rio Grande; the agent fired across the river, which marks the international border with Mexico, from the northern bank.
The Border Patrol issued a press release accusing Santillan of initiating the conflict by throwing rocks at the agent. There was a similar incident at approximately the same place which occurred at about the same time as the death of Mr. Santillan. In both incidents the Border Patrol reports that agents were attempting to arrest illegal border crossers at the Rio Grande.
Two facts are worth repeating in this tragedy. The first is that agents can be seriously injured by rocks. With increasing frequency along the Mexican border Border Patrol agents are being physically attacked. The “rocks” can be bricks or junks of concrete. According to the Border Patrol, last year about 500 agents were attacked with “rocks”, which the Border Patrol considers “deadly force”.
The specific circumstances of this incident, however, still remain in contention.
The second fact is this: with one or two exceptions like the Spanish language version of the Huffington Post, the only media outlets which published the story of Santillan’s death at the Rio Grande River were local South Texas media. Even on a slow news Saturday during the first week of July the death at the border was not considered “newsworthy” by the national media.
One reason the national media ignored the story, and still do, is that the number of border deaths similar to this incident has, according to Melissa del Bosque at the Texas Observer, substantially increased over the last two years. (See Melissa del Bosque @ https://www.texasobserver.org/lalinea .) She reports that Border Patrol agents are increasingly firing their weapons across the border based upon statistics from the Border Patrol. The Border Patrol only released these statistics after she was forced to request them under the Freedom of Information Act.
One would hope that this tragedy will be carefully investigated with the utmost due diligence. At the same time, this death once again suggests that the national media- for whatever reasons-are ignoring increased violence against the Border Patrol. At the same time this incident once again raises the question of whether Border Patrol agents are meeting professional law enforcement standards to which they must and should be held accountable. The fact that the Border Patrol is very reluctant to release information which should be readily available to the public serves to undermine their credibility.