AUSTIN, Texas (HPD) — A Texas National Guardsman shot and wounded a migrant during a struggle on the US-Mexico border this month as the soldier tried to detain a person, according to state militia files, which have not made the incident public.
It is believed to be the first time a National Guardsman assigned to the state border mission Operation Lone Star has injured another person with a firearm. The migrant’s injuries do not put his life at risk.
The incident that occurred on January 15 came to light last week after it was first reported by the Army Times and the Texas Tribune. The Texas Military Department did not respond to questions about how many times National Guardsmen have fired a weapon since the mission began in 2021.
The handling of the shooting — described in an internal military report obtained by The Associated Press — has raised transparency concerns about a $4 billion state-run border security operation that has grown in size and authority under the command of Governor Greg Abbott.
As of Tuesday, military officials had not responded to questions about what happened or acknowledged that a gun was fired.
“The state and the governor are pretty much the first to release information about how many people might have been detained or whether drugs had been intercepted,” said Gil Kerlikowske, a former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) commissioner. ) during the Obama administration. “It seems completely contraindicated that as soon as something happens that, you know, raises a question or concern, there is absolute silence. It’s a fundamental mistake.”
Firearms are not commonly used among the thousands of border agents and others who encounter migrants along the Rio Grande (or Grande) River, and Border Patrol officials say that when shots are fired, it is a common practice to let the public know.
It is not clear if the soldier fired intentionally. According to an internal military report, the soldier followed a Border Patrol unit to an abandoned house along the Rio Grande while he was chasing four migrants.
One of them resisted arrest, according to the report, and began punching and struggling with the National Guardsman, who pulled out a personal firearm that “fired once.”
The migrant was shot in the left shoulder and taken to a McAllen hospital.
The Military Department referred questions to the state police. Travis Considine, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, said the Ranger Division was investigating and the agency was unable to provide further information.
An Abbott spokeswoman did not respond to requests for information about the shooting.
Kerlikowske and other critics, including a Texas border lawmaker who learned of the shooting on the news, say the closely guarded details run counter to what greater openness should be, particularly when force is used. lethal.
The border and the large number of migrants crossing into the United States have become a major political issue for Abbott, who recently began a third term as Texas governor and has not ruled out a 2024 presidential run.
The border mission includes some 5,000 members of the National Guard who are authorized to make arrests.
“I am not happy with the lack of transparency from the Texas National Guard,” said Democratic state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, whose district includes the area where the incident occurred.
Hinojosa, a member of a state Senate committee overseeing the state’s border operation, said that when his team asked the Military Department for details they were only told it was under investigation.
“The lack of transparency on their part, by not even notifying legislators that this incident had occurred, only creates more problems for them. So people start to think that they are trying to hide something,” he said.
Rod Kise, a Border Patrol spokesman, said the incident was under review by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
Under Kerlikowske, Border Patrol policy was to issue a statement within four hours and hold a press conference within 24 hours of use-of-force incidents.
In recent years, Border Patrol agents have been implicated in an increasing number of use-of-force incidents, although most do not involve firearms. In fiscal year 2022, there were 12 cases of firearm use by Border Patrol agents on the southern border, according to federal statistics.