In a bit of disturbing news that will probably not come as much of a surprise to anyone, an Arizona US Border Patrol agent who faces charges for deliberately hitting an undocumented migrant with his vehicle had a history of text messages using racist and dehumanizing language to refer to migrants.
The agent, who was dispatched after a Border Patrol camera operator saw a man jump over the border fence and alerted colleagues, chose to pursue the man in his vehicle after he started to flee when agents arrived on scene.
He proceeded to run the man, Guatemalan Antolin Lopez Aguilar, down with his vehicle. He then hit him with the vehicle, causing significant injury.
According to the federal indictment, he came:
"within inches of running Lopez-Aguilar over where he lay on the ground."
He is facing federal charges for the act, as well as for falsifying the report about the incident.
He had previously described undocumented migrants in a text as:
"disgusting subhuman s**t unworthy of being kindling for a fire."
The prosecution also submitted text conversations where he jokes about being violent toward those illegally crossing the border, descriptions that are too graphic to be included here.
In the argument over whether to allow the text messages to be read in court, the agent's lawyer, Sean Chapman, made the claim that such language is:
"commonplace throughout the Border Patrol's Tucson Sector, that it is part of the agency's culture, and therefore say nothing about Mr. Bowen's mind-set."
This completely ignores the fact that it is possible not to use such slurs even if those around you are doing so. It also ignores the fact that
In a message to the Arizona Daily Star, Border Patrol officials said that their agents are:
"held to the highest standards, and any action of misconduct within our ranks will not be tolerated."
They did not address Chapman's assertion that abusive language was the norm within the Tucson Border Patrol agents.
Twitter users weren't surprised by the news, but rather saw a general trend.
Many were saddened and angered by the agent's behavior, and the greater trend toward unnecessary violence and hatred.
Several were incredulous over Chapman's assertion that the texts should be omitted from the case because that sort of language was the norm.
Violence and negligence from Border Patrol agents certainly isn't a new thing, and this is not an isolated incident. The detention of children without their parents is just one example, albeit an extreme one, of how immigration is mishandled in this country.
Most people are horrified by incidents like these, but it can feel next to impossible for someone outside of a system (like Customs and Border Patrol) to help make positive changes.
Speaking out against racism and violence, and fostering a culture where such is not acceptable, can go a long way toward change. Organizations like RAICES work to provide education and legal services to underserved immigrant children and their families.