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Seeking answers in death of teen at border
November 29, 2012

Seeking answers in death of teen at border
Protestors held vigil at the border after the death of 16-year-old teenager Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez. (Kino Border Initiative)
Download a PDF of the letter here.
(Washington, D.C.) November 29, 2012 — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, the Jesuit Conference and the Kino Border Initiative drafted and sent a letter requesting a meeting with Customs and Border Protection on their Use of Force policy. Thirty additional organizations joined us in signing the letter, an effort to encourage greater transparency and dialogue on the part of CBP and the Department of Homeland Security in light of a pattern of deadly confrontations resulting in the deaths of at least 15 Mexican civilians — including two minors — along the border since 2010.

This effort is spurred by the death of 16-year-old teenager Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez on October 10, 2012. The Los Angeles Times and USA Today reported the youth was shot "by agents after they ordered a group of youths near downtown Nogales, Mexico, to stop throwing rocks, according to U.S. officials."

"The disproportionate use of lethal force in the exercise of immigration control functions is unacceptable under any circumstances. These kinds of acts, especially because they are recurring, have been rejected by Mexican society and all of the country's political powers," the Mexican Ministry of Exterior Relations said in a statement reported by USA Today.

While the FBI is investigating this particular incident, JRS/USA, the Jesuit Conference and our colleagues who joined us in signing the letter would like clarity from CPB and DHS regarding their protocols and policies related to use of deadly force along the border and the oversight and accountability procedures in place to investigate the involvement of agents in violent altercations.

The text of the letter is below, and also attached in PDF form. Special thanks to WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America), LAWG (Latin America Working Group) and the Women's Refugee Commission for their input in the drafting process of this letter. 

Mr. David V. Aguilar
Deputy Commissioner
Customs and Border Patrol

Dear Deputy Commissioner Aguilar,

We write to express our concern about Custom and Border Protecton's (CBP) use of force policy and to request a meeting with your office to clarify CBP's protocols governing use of lethal force by Border Patrol agents along the U.S./Mexico Border.

As is the case for any law enforcement agency, clear and transparent protocols to regulate appropriate use of force are necessary for the protection of both civilians and Border Patrol agents. However, sources provide a wide range of incomplete and in some cases troubling statements about CBP's policy relating to this matter.

For example, we note with concern that in a 2010 press release, the Border Patrol Union wrote that "Rocks are weapons and constitute deadly force. If an agent is confronted with deadly force they will respond in kind." We recognize that the complexity of border control operations requires that Border Patrol agents be prepared to respond appropriately to a wide range of situations. However, we

challenge the unqualified assertion that all rock-throwing constitutes the use of deadly force and merits a lethal response. We seek to understand whether the 2010 statement by the Border Patrol Union and other similar broad assertions are an accurate portrayal of CBP's deadly force policy, particularly in light of the recent shooting death of 16-year-old Mexican national José Antonio Elena Rodríguez by a U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Nogales, Mexico.

We echo the sentiments of the 16 members of the U.S House of Representatives who requested a broad examination of the use of force within CBP, and while we would welcome CBP's full cooperation in the congressionally requested review as laid out in the Office of the Inspector General's FY 2013 Annual Performance Plan for the Department of Homeland Security, we believe that this pressing concern cannot wait to be addressed until the Inspector General's report is issued.

The signatories below respectfully request a briefing on CBP's current protocol regarding use of force as well as information on the procedures in place to investigate CBP agents' involvement in violent incidents along the U.S./Mexico border. We look forward to the opportunity for a full discussion with you and your staff on this important issue.


American Immigration Lawyers Association

ASISTA Immigration Assistance

Border Network for Human Rights

Center of Concern

Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Episcopal Church of St. Michael & All Angels

Felician Sisters of North America, Leadership Team

Franciscan Action Network

Franciscan Sisters of Little Falls, MN, Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Advisory Commission

Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee

Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, Office of US Area JPIC, Cincinnati, OH

Jesuit Conference

Jesuit Refugee Service USA

Kino Border Initiative

Latin America Working Group

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

Migration and Refugee Services/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Immigrant Justice Center

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes in Tucson, AZ

Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Team

Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg, IN, Leadership Team

Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, Advocacy for Justice and Peace Committee

Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities, WNY Peace & Justice Committee

Tucson Samaritans

Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Washington Office on Latin America


Secretary for Homeland Security Janet Napolitano

Acting DHS Inspector General Charles K. Edwards

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Mr Christian Fuchs