A 19-year-old U.S. citizen, Carlos Lamadrid, was shot in the back three times by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while fleeing across the southern border into Mexico in May of 2011. The young man, a native of Douglas, Ariz., was unarmed and was reportedly transporting marijuana. Lamadrid died from his wounds in a local hospital shortly thereafter.
Lamadrids's mother, Guadalupe Guerrero, is now suing the federal government, alleging that the border agent who shot her son acted "outside the scope of his authority," according to the family's attorney, Richard Gonzalez.
"The border agent violated this kid's civil rights. The only time an agent is allowed to use deadly force is in order to protect him or herself or to protect others in the area," Gonzalez told The Huffington Post. "This kid was unarmed and fleeing. He posed no threat to the agent. Shooting him was grossly negligent."
Customs and Border Protection told The Huffington Post that they could not comment on Lamadrid's death, the lawsuit or instances in which their agents may use their weapons. "It's pending litigation and we cannot discuss the details of the case at this time," Border Patrol spokesperson Mario Escalante said.
Lamadrid's case comes at a bad time for the CBP. Civil rights complaints filed against the agency have risen dramatically in recent years, while immigration has simultaneously slowed. While in 2004 CBP faced 34 civil rights complaints, in 2010, the most recent year for which complete data is available, 65 complaints were made. Between January and June of 2011 alone, 81 new complaint investigations were opened against border patrol. Corruption has also been on the rise, according to Reuters, with 129 agents arrested on corruption charges from 2003 to 2009.
Recent deaths caused by border patrol agents have also brought the agency unflattering press. Earlier this year, PBS unearthed footage of the beating of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas. More than a dozen border patrol agents stood around the Mexican citizen while he was hogtied, beaten with a baton, and tased, according to PBS. The death of 15-year-old Sergio Hernandez-Guereca, a Mexican citizen fatally shot by a CBP agent in 2010, also sparked outrage in the immigrant activist community, after agent Jesus Mesa Jr. said he used lethal force because Hernandez-Guereca was throwing rocks at him.
The shooting of Lamadrid may also have been prompted by rock throwing, according to local reports. After Lamadrid's Chevy Avalanche caught the attention of local Douglas Arizona police, who noted that it "appeared to be suspicious," Lamadrid fled "at high rate of speed southbound towards the International boundary," according to the Douglas Dispatch. The U.S. border patrol happened to be in the area, according to the same report, and started pursuing Lamadrid, the driver, and the 17-year-old passenger of the car. An accomplice on the Mexican side of the southern border allegedly threw a ladder over the border wall, and rocks were thrown at border agents. According to local reports, border patrol agent Lucas Tidwell then shot and killed Lamadrid.
"At this time, there were rocks thrown at the Border Patrol agent who then fired his duty weapon striking the driver three times," the Douglas Dispatch reported.
The Latin American Herald Tribune reports that authorities subsequently found 48 pounds of marijuana in the car. But Lamadrid's family says they'd like to see the police report to confirm this.
“We haven’t received any official report from the Douglas Police, the Border Patrol, not even from the Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Deputy Roger Clark said to us that they won’t deliver any report until the case is solved," Janeth Guerrero, Lamadrid's aunt, told The Douglas Dispatch at a rally last year, calling for justice in her nephew's case.
Even if Lamadrid was transporting marijuana, however, the border agent may still be at fault for using his weapon, if the 19-year-old posed no imminent threat. In a similar case in 2006, two border agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean, were sentenced to prison terms of 11 and 12 years for shooting a marijuana-smuggling suspect in the buttocks as he fled across the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.
Assistant Attorney Debra Kanof told the court at the time that the agents acted unlawfully. “The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it is a violation of someone’s Fourth Amendment rights to shoot them in the back while fleeing if you don’t know who they are and/or if you don’t know they have a weapon,” Kanof said. In 2009, however, President George W. Bush commuted the sentences of the two former Border Patrol agents on his last day in office, setting them free after each served two years in prison.
The Lamadrid family's attorney says that convictions for border patrol agents are rare in his memory. "I've been doing this stuff for a long time and I've never seen a Border Patrol agent ever convicted in these cases, even when the circumstances are really egregious," Gonzalez said.
Guerrero, Lamadrid's mother, told The Latin American Herald Tribune that her son's death was just one of many injustices committed on the border.
“Another kind of law” prevails along the border, she said. “If this happened to my son who was a citizen of this country, what can the undocumented immigrants expect?” Guerrero said. “If my son carried drugs they should have put him on trial, give him a chance.”
"There is no logical reason for the death of my son," she continued. "I want justice, I want that person who hurt my son to pay like any of us."
The Naturalization Act of 1790 was our country's first set of laws dealing with citizenship. Applicants had to be "a free white person" of "good moral character." This excluded indentured servants and slaves. Good moral character was substantiated by establishing residence for at least one year in the state from where he was applying, and at least two years of residence in the country. The Naturalization Act of 1795 would extend that requirement to five years, and is still standard today.
A Reconstruction Amendment that was added to the U.S. Constitution following the Civil War, the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment establishes for the first time that children born on U.S. soil would be conferred U.S. citizenship regardless of their parent's citizenship status, race, or place of birth. Last year, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 to Congress, and challenged this. The bill would require that at least one parent be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident for a child to be granted citizenship. According to the bill's text, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and "clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth." Prior to this, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) introduced a similar bill in 2009.
The Naturalization Act of 1870 explicitly extended naturalization laws to "aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent." This meant that for the first time, African-American children would be conferred citizenship upon birth. Asian immigrants and other people of color are excluded per the Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795.
Named after Republican Representative Horace F. Page, this is the first U.S. federal immigration law to explicitly prohibit the immigration of a particular group: persons of Asian descent. Primarily meant to limit Chinese immigrant labor and prostitution, the Page Act prohibited the immigration of: (1) contracted labor from "China, Japan, or any Oriental country" that was not "free and voluntary," (2) Chinese prostitution and (3) criminals and women who would engage in prostitution. Ultimately, the Page Act severely restricted the immigration of Asian women. Only 136 of the the nearly 40,000 Chinese immigrants who arrived in the months before the bill's enforcement were women. And, it would pave the way for the Chinese Exclusion Act. In this picture, Michael Lin, chair of the 1882 Project, a coalition of rights groups seeking a statement of regret over that year's Chinese Exclusion Act, speaks on May 26, 2011 in Washington, DC, at the US House of Representatives in front of a reproduction of a 19th-century sign that aimed at rousing up sentiment against Chinese Americans. Lawmakers introduced a bill that would offer an official statement of regret for the act, which banned further immigration of Chinese to the United States and ended citizenship rights for ethnic Chinese. (AFP PHOTO/SHAUN TANDON).
Signed by President Chester A. Arthur, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first federal immigration law to prohibit immigration on the basis of race. The bill barred all Chinese laborers, skilled and unskilled, from immigrating to the U.S. for ten years. It was made permanent by 1903, and was not lifted until the 1943 Magnuson Act. The 1898 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Wong Kim Ark finally extended naturalization laws to persons of Chinese descent by ruling that anyone born in the United States was indeed a U.S. citizen. This editorial cartoon from 1882 shows a Chinese man being excluded from entry to the "Golden Gate of Liberty." The sign next to the iron door reads, "Notice--Communist, Nihilist, Socialist, Fenian & Hoodlum welcome. But no admittance to Chinamen." At the bottom, the caption reads, "THE ONLY ONE BARRED OUT. Enlightened American Statesman--'We must draw the line somewhere, you know.'" (Image Source: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 54 (1882 April 1), p. 96. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons).
The Naturalization Act of 1906 further defined the naturalization process: the ability to speak English was made a requisite for immigrants to adjust their status.
U.S. President Coolidge signed this U.S. federal bill into law. It capped the number of immigrants who could be admitted entry to the U.S. and barred immigration of persons who were not eligible for naturalization. And, as the Naturalization Act of 1790 required, an immigrant had to be white in order to naturalize. The quotas varied by country. Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons, NYCMarines.
The McCarran-Walter Act kept up the controversial Immigration Act of 1924, but formally ended Asian exclusion.
When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it abolished the quota system that favored immigration from Europe and limited immigration from Asia and South America.
The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) is a piece of legislation that defined an array of issues to do with legal and illegal immigration -- from outlining how border patrol agents should administer visa processing, to the minutiae of how to handle deportation proceedings -- IIRIRA established enforcement and patrolling practices.
WATCH: Lamadrid's Aunt Pleads For Justice (In Spanish)