It’s been seven years since Guillermo Arévalo was shot and killed by Customs and Border Protection, which claimed that men on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande had thrown rocks at agents. “The Arévalo family had been out for a picnic that day, and they insist no one was throwing rocks,” NPR reports. Family members ran from the spray of bullets. “When we came back,” Priscila said, “my papa he was already dead.”
Seven years later, an investigation into Arévalo’s death remains incomplete—and this delay is not an isolated travesty. ”There have been 35 fatal shootings by on-duty CBP officers since 2010, according to the Southern Border Communities Coalition, an immigrant rights group,” NPR reports. “And yet CBP has announced the results of just eight internal investigations into these use-of-force incidents … the latest completed case is three and a half years old.”
There are also unanswered questions surrounding the death of Claudia Patricia Gómez González, an unarmed indigenous woman shot and killed by a border agent over a year ago, in May 2018. CBP initially claimed the 20-year-old and a group of others ambushed a lone agent with “blunt objects” in the Rio Bravo area of Texas. But, this was a lie. Nearly a year later, her family didn’t even know “whether the border agent who fired the shot was still on leave.” Her family has since filed a $100 million claim against the federal government.
A 2018 investigation by The Guardian found that the federal government has already paid out more than $60 million over a decade to settle legal claims against border agents, including “deaths, driving injuries, alleged assaults and wrongful detention.” Yet on internal probes concerning shooting deaths, “the agency, which had pledged transparency and to publicly release the results of its investigations, found no agent misconduct in each case.”
”CBP counters that if justice is slow, it’s because these things take time,” saying state and federal prosecutors, the agency, and then agency officials all have to make determinations before anything can be publicly released. But administration chaos has added to this: CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility “points out there were three interim commissioners in the course of 12 weeks earlier this year, and that slowed things down.”
A delay in justice also means agents who murdered Guillermo Arévalo and Claudia Patricia Gómez González might still be on the job to kill again, and this happens as the current administration spends more time encouraging lawbreaking among agents, and not building on the few reforms that actually have happened at CBP. “The only thing we want is justice,” said Priscila, now 16. “They killed him and we haven’t gotten a call. We don’t even know the face of the killer. They just fled and that was that.”