Another one by the Border Patrol

Teaching a child to shoot at a figure wearing a cap, a T-shirt and baggy pantsagainst a wall that resembles the border fence does not necessarily imply that the child was being taught how to attack undocumented immigrants. Nor does it release the Border Patrol from the irresponsibility of this terrible idea that was part of an event aimed at improving community relations.

The purpose of this activity was to show how the Border Patrol uses non-lethal weapons—in this casetalcum powder pellets were used rather than pepper balls. Unfortunately, the use of this figure as a target also taught the children to recognize the “threat” dressed in this manner: a wardrobe that stereotypes the dress of many young minorities and working people.

It is impossible to ignore the irony of this exercise in police moderation—of responding with pepper gas—performed by the Border Patrol, which has been called to account for the shooting deaths of people who were only throwing rocks in the distance.

We believe it was a very bad idea to use that figure in such an exercise, even if other police agencies do so. The scrutiny of the Border Patrol is different and demands greater sensitivity, especially at its community events. For good reason, there are many types of practice targets, yet they chose this one.

The fervor of the union representing the Patrol agents against immigration reform and their expressed frustration at not being able to detain more people do not help their community image either. But that is another issue.

For all these reasons, the Border Patrol cannot allow itself the luxury of lacking sensitivity or claiming ignorance when not recognizing the impact of its actions.

Taxpayers pay the salaries of these public employees so they do their job, with the respect deserved alike by citizens and the undocumented. That money is not to teach children to shoot at figures of people, even if the ammunition is harmless.

Does the United States really need the Border Patrol to help get more children interested in playing at shooting weaponsat its community events?