Press Release

The IACHR Expresses Deep Concern Over the Deaths of Migrants Caused by the U.S. Border Patrol

February 24, 2014

Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over the events that led to the death of Jesus Flores Cruz, a Mexican migrant of 41 years of age. Mr. Flores Cruz died from gunshot wounds inflicted by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, who was pursuing him on foot in a mountainous area of San Diego, near the international border between the United States and Mexico.

According to publicly available information, on February 18, 2014, a Border Patrol agent shot Mr. Flores Cruz, as a response to having previously been hit in the face by a rock that Flores Cruz had thrown at the agent. As a result of this encounter, Mr. Flores Cruz died instantly, and the Border Patrol agent sustained minor injuries for which no medical attention was required.

The Inter-American Commission notes with great concern that from January 2010 to the present, at least 28 persons have died in incidents with agents of the U. S. Customs and Border Protection Agency of the United States of America (CBP), of which the office of the Border Patrol forms part. As reported by human rights organizations, of these incidents, 27 persons have died as a result of the use of lethal force and one person died after not receiving medical attention. Most of these deaths have occurred in confrontations between migrants and state officials responsible for immigration control on the border between the United States of America and Mexico. Relatives of the victims and human rights organizations have argued that many of these deaths have been caused as a result of excessive and disproportionate use of force by Border Patrol agents. According to the monitoring of human rights organizations, nine persons who were killed were accused of throwing rocks towards state agents, who then responded with the use of lethal force.

Commissioner Felipe González, Rapporteur on the Rights of Migrants of the IACHR, stated that, “it is very unfortunate that another migrant has died and more so under circumstances such as these. In recent years, we have received information on cases in which Border Patrol agents make use of lethal force in response to having been attacked by migrants who throw rocks at them. The information that we have indicates that there are many obstacles that lead state and federal authorities to not investigate whether these deaths could have occurred as a result of excessive use of force by Border Patrol agents, which favors their impunity. Regardless of their status as federal agents, there needs to be clarity and transparency on the investigations that are being carried out internally on these agents for excessive use of force, as well as the sanctions that could be eventually imposed against them, in order to guarantee that human rights violations committed by them do not go unpunished.”

In accordance with its international obligations on human rights and in order to clarify the facts and punish any human rights violation against migrants, the Inter-American Commission urges U.S. authorities at the state and federal level to carry out a serious, independent, effective, and impartial investigation of the facts surrounding the death of Mr. Flores Cruz, as well as other events where it is alleged that the excessive use of force has been employed by Border Patrol agents. The IACHR reiterates the State’s obligation to redress the families of the victims of these events. In addition, in order to avoid the repetition of such facts, the Commission urges U.S. authorities to implement permanent programs on the human rights of migrants within training programs for Border Patrol agents as well as guidelines on the use of force and the principle of non-discrimination.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 18/14