In the wake of a dramatic increase in deaths at the hands of U.S Border Patrol agents, the Department of Homeland Security has agreed to launch a long-awaited investigation into the agency’s use of force. Since 2010, border agents have killed at least 18 people, including Valeria "Munique" Tachiquin, slain by a Border Patrol agent on September 28 in broad daylight several miles north of California’s border with Mexico. Tachiquin was a U.S. citizen and mother of five children. Her family is now bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the Border Patrol. We’re joined by Valeria’s father, Valentin Tachiquin, and by Christian Ramirez, director of Southern Border Communities Coalition and human rights director of Alliance San Diego. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: In the wake of the dramatic increase in deaths at the hands of U.S Border Patrol agents, the Department of Homeland Security has agreed to launch a long-awaited investigation into the agency’s use of force. The investigation comes after community outcry led to formal requests by members of Congress concerned about what they see as a pattern of excessive force by Border Patrol agents.
Since 2010, at least 18 people have been killed by border agents, including, most recently, 16-year-old José Rodríguez. He was reportedly shot no fewer than seven times for allegedly throwing rocks at an agent.
Another recent case that has sparked outcry is that of Valeria "Munique" Tachiquin. She was was killed by a Border Patrol agent on September 28th in broad daylight in a residential area several miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border. She was a U.S. citizen, mother of five, the youngest four years old. The man who killed her, agent Justin Tackett, reportedly had a history of misconduct in his previous career as a California sheriff’s deputy but was nonetheless hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. The Tachiquin family’s attorney, Gene Iredale, has started the process to file a lawsuit against the Border Patrol. He recently explained why to ABC News 10.
GENE IREDALE: With no change in his law enforcement training and no apparent change in his character, a federal agency, the Border Patrol, hires this man and trusts him with a gun and a badge.
AMY GOODMAN: For more on the new Department of Homeland Security investigation into Border Patrol and the recent spate of border killings, we’re joined now by two guests in San Diego, California. Valentin Tachiquin is a corrections officer and the father of Munique Tachiquin, who was killed by the Border Patrol agent late last month. And we’re joined by Christian Ramirez, director of Southern Border Communities Coalition and human rights director of Alliance San Diego.
Valentin and Christian, we welcome you both to Democracy Now! Christian, can you put this all—tell us the story of Valentin. As well, tell us the story of what is happening on the border.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re sorry. We’ve had some technical problems; we lost audio connection with our guests. But I think that we have them back. And I’d like to turn to Valentin Tachiquin, a corrections officer, father of Munique, who was killed by a Border Patrol agent on September 28th. Can you tell us Munique’s story?
VALENTIN TACHIQUIN: Yes. She was a loving mother, a loving wife, just a great person. And I just don’t know what happened the day that—you know, my daughter is not here today. That’s my problem.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened? Tell us what happened, as you understood it, Valentin.
VALENTIN TACHIQUIN: Well, as far as I know, and only through the media, because I haven’t had no official story from neither Chula Vista PD or the Border Patrol agency, it’s just what I heard over the news and—that she was killed because an officer felt that he was in danger. But that’s—as far as I know, I haven’t heard nothing official as far as what really happened.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian Ramirez, can you tell us what you understand took place? You’re director of Southern Border Communities Coalition, human rights director of Alliance San Diego.
CHRISTIAN RAMIREZ: Well, Amy, what we heard, according to Border Patrol officials, is that there was a plainclothes operation taking place near or at the location where Munique was seen driving. According to the Border Patrol, an agent was struck by the vehicle that Munique was driving and dragged several hundred yards. The agent felt that his life was in jeopardy, as Mr. Tachiquin has expressed, and decided to use deadly force to stop this threat.
We went to the scene—I personally went to the scene hours after it was reported. Munique’s body was still at the scene. Several border patrolees were there. I spoke to a number of witnesses. This happened in a densely populated area in a suburb of southern San Diego. And all of the witnesses tell us that the agent, who was in plainclothes, shot and killed Munique when he was standing on the pavement—not on top of the vehicle, not on the hood, but on the pavement—and shot her multiple times.
What is very troubling about this particular case is that it occurred in broad daylight in a densely populated area in southern San Diego County. And the agent that shot and killed Munique Tachiquin was in plainclothes. And this has sparked, of course, protests, sparked outrage in the community, because she was in fact the 16th resident of the U.S.-Mexico border, a U.S. citizen and a mother of five, who was gunned down by a Border Patrol agent in San Diego County.
AMY GOODMAN: This agent, Justin Tackett, had a history of misconduct in his previous career as a sheriff’s deputy in California, yet was hired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency?
CHRISTIAN RAMIREZ: That’s our understanding, Amy. Mr. Tackett, who allegedly was the man who shot and killed Munique Tachiquin, was employed by a county sheriff’s—as a county sheriff’s deputy. He was fired from that corporation after several instances of misconduct, violating folks’ civil rights. Interestingly enough, Mr. Tackett then went on to work for former Congressman Hunter, San Diego, California, Representative Hunter. And soon thereafter, he was picked up by Customs and Border Protection.
This points clearly to a very serious problem within the U.S. Border Patrol of not having the adequate mechanisms to screen applicants and, much less, to hold these agents accountable. This agent, according to the sheriff’s department, should not have been anywhere near a badge or a gun. And despite of that, he was still hired as a Border Patrol agent. And even more troubling, he was apparently in an undercover investigation in plainclothes, and this, of course, points to the fact that Border Patrol is out of control. It needs to be regulated. It needs to be controlled. And this is why it’s prompted the Office of the Inspector General to conduct an investigation into this agency.
AMY GOODMAN: Christian Ramirez and Valentin Tachiquin, I want to thank you both very much for being with us. And that does it for our broadcast, as we leave California today and will be in Portland, Oregon tonight. Tomorrow we’ll be in Olympia, Washington, at noon, and in the evening at Seattle Town Hall in Washington state.