Congresswoman Norma Torres

Representing the 35th District of California
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Torres to Trump: “Use of Deadly Force Against Innocent and Unarmed Civilians Will Never Make Our Southwest Border Secure”

May 31, 2018
Press Release

Following the May 23 killing of twenty-year-old Guatemalan national Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez by an agent of the United States Border Patrol, Torres presses President Trump for a thorough and transparent investigation of the incident, urges further reforms to Border Patrol procedures, and questions the administration’s strategy for securing the nation’s southwest border  

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA) called on President Donald Trump to ensure that the killing of Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, a twenty-year-old accountant from an indigenous community in Guatemala, by an agent of the United States Border Patrol is thoroughly and transparently investigated. In her letter, Torres stressed the need for the Secretary of Homeland Security to implement further reforms to curb abuses, in light of the recent pattern of use of force incidents involving Customs and Border Patrol agents, and urged President Trump to reconsider the administration’s strategy for securing the United States’ southwest border in order to address the root causes of migration.

 

“I understand that this incident is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Rangers. It is important that these agencies carry out their investigations in a thorough and transparent manner, and that legal and disciplinary actions are taken, as warranted by the investigations, to ensure accountability,” wrote Torres.

 

“It is also imperative that you clearly communicate to the Border Patrol and its agents that asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants are human beings, whose basic human rights must be respected. They are not, as you have stated, ‘animals,’” Torres continued. “Finally, I urge you to rethink your strategy for securing the United States’ southwest border. The use of deadly force against innocent and unarmed civilians will never make our southwest border secure. You would achieve much better results, for much less money, by working with the governments of Central America to address the root causes of migration, especially violence and poverty. I stand ready to work with you toward that end, and I will continue to press the political classes in Central America to do their part.”

 

Torres, who was born in Guatemala, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Rules Committee, and the Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Foreign Policy and Latin America Task Force.

 

The full text of the letter is available below.

 

Dear President Trump,

 

I write to express my profound concern regarding the May 23 killing of Guatemalan national Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez.

 

According to press reports, Ms. Gomez Gonzalez, a twenty-year-old accountant from an indigenous community in Guatemala, crossed the United States border on May 23 in search of employment opportunities, and to reunite with her boyfriend. Upon entry, she was shot and killed by an agent of the United States Border Patrol. The Border Patrol, in an initial statement, claimed that the agent in question “came under attack by multiple subjects using blunt objects”; however, Border Patrol later changed its story, instead claiming that the agent had been “rushed” by a group of migrants and dropping the it’s prior description of Ms. Gomez Gonzalez as an “assailant.”

 

I understand that this incident is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Texas Rangers. It is important that these agencies carry out their investigations in a thorough and transparent manner, and that legal and disciplinary actions are taken, as warranted by the investigations, to ensure accountability. Likewise, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State must comply with any reasonable requests made on behalf of the family of Ms. Gomez Gonzalez through the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in particular, the timely return of her body to Guatemala. I also request that you disclose relevant information regarding the three witnesses who were apprehended, including whether they have obtained legal representation.

 

The killing of Claudia Gomez Gonzalez was not an isolated incident. Of the 996 use of force incidents involving Customs and Border Patrol agents in Fiscal Year 2017, 889 involved the United States Border Patrol. I implore you to instruct the Secretary of Homeland Security to implement further reforms, such as the mandatory use of body cameras for all Border Patrol agents, to curb these abuses; it is troubling that Customs and Border Protection has still not fully implemented the Integrity Advisory Panel’s 2015-2016 recommendations, including recommendations addressing the use of force. It is also imperative that you clearly communicate to the Border Patrol and its agents that asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants are human beings, whose basic human rights must be respected. They are not, as you have stated, “animals.”

 

Finally, I urge you to rethink your strategy for securing the United States’ southwest border. The use of deadly force against innocent and unarmed civilians will never make our southwest border secure. You would achieve much better results, for much less money, by working with the governments of Central America to address the root causes of migration, especially violence and poverty. I stand ready to work with you toward that end, and I will continue to press the political classes in Central America to do their part.

 

Sincerely,

 

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