Paul Babeu, Pinal County Sheriff, Tosses Armed Militia into Tense Border Environment With Poorly Trained Border Patrol Agents

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On October 2, the life a U.S Border Patrol agent was tragically snuffed by a fellow agent, and, men in that same uniform, on October 10, riddled the body of a teenager in Mexico with bullets for throwing rocks at them.

Unnecessary and avoidable deaths?

Coalición de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Coalition), a Tucson-based immigrants-rights organization, says yes.

In a statement, the group says that "even tragic and unnecessary shooting of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Nicholas Ivie illuminates the dangerous policy of indiscriminate and irresponsible use of deadly force" that goes beyond a lack of training.

Ivie was killed during a blind shootout with his fellow agents, a tragedy that bolsters the group's claim that use of deadly force is the default policy for agents and that they routinely "opened fire on individuals without confirming their identity or whether a criminal act was being committed."

As New Times reported in 2010, and against in 2011, lack of training is also a major issue -- one that even federal officials and union representative admit.

Here are excerpts from those articles:

James Tomsheck, of the CBP's Office of Internal Affairs, admitted to lawmakers during the congressional hearing "that many of those persons hired during CBP's hiring initiatives . . . may very well have entered into our workforce despite the fact that they were unsuitable."
--Cloaked Brutality, 2010

Shawn Moran, vice president of the labor union that represents Border Patrol agents, tells New Times that standards dropped in a rush to meet hiring goals.

Moran says trainees "really had to screw up to get fired or get thrown out of a [Border Patrol training] academy."

The running joke in those days, he says, was: "No trainee left behind."

Only it wasn't much of a joke. New agents graduated from the academy before background checks were completed. Even those who ultimately got rejected for failing their background checks walked away with knowledge of how the agency operates -- which could be shared with smugglers for a price.

Moran says, too often, the prevailing attitude among agency officials was: "It's a warm body."

CBP Commissioner Alan Bersin testified before a Senate committee in June ... [and] said the "accelerated hiring pace under which we operated between 2006 and 2008 -- and, frankly, the mistakes from which we are learning -- exposed critical organizational and individual vulnerabilities within CBP."

Bersin conceded that the massive influx of new hires in that past few years has left the federal agency with a workforce that is "younger, less experienced, and in need of seasoned supervisors."

The March 2011 report by the Government Accountability Office cited an ongoing weakness in border security stemming from a "lack of focus and complacency, lack of supervisory presence, and lack of training."

--Corrupt Agents, 2011

And given that environment, even more serious questions arise about Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, along with Senator Sylvia Allen, forming an armed posse of volunteers and dispatching them into the desert to hunt drug smugglers.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo