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Corpus Christi Caller-Times August 20, 1997

Should the border be militarized?

Eighteen-year-old Esequiel Hernandez Jr. was laid to rest months ago, but the controversy surrounding the high school student's killing by a Marine on a drug-surveillance mission along the border hasn't. On Thursday, a Presidio County grand jury declined to indict Cpl. Clemente Banuelos, concluding the Marine fired his M-16 in self-defense. Yet the grand jury's decision does not answer the prime question: Should the border be militarized? The tragedy argues it shouldn't.

Hernandez, who was herding his family's goats on a desolate bluff above the Rio Grande when he was shot May 20, is the first American killed since troops began assisting law enforcement agencies eight years ago with anti-drug efforts.

The Defense Department's ongoing reassessment of the appropriateness of using the nation's armed forces on the border must weigh the gains against drug traffickers against the negatives of using forces trained to destroy military targets in civilian settings. The Marine reconnaissance group involved in the shooting consisted of highly- trained troops designed for deep penetration of enemy territory, not the kind of police work in which the Border Patrol is engaged.

This article copyright 1997 the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and is reproduced for non-profit educational purposes only.

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