[an error occurred while processing this directive]

House panel plans probe of S. Texas border killing

The Houston Chronicle July 17, 1997

Copyright 1997 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A congressional investigation into the killing of a South Texan by a Marine will begin in September, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, said Wednesday.

Smith, chairman of the House immigration subcommittee, said he will set an exact date soon, but the hearing will be in September to allow "a few weeks to investigate the situation."

Esequiel Hernandez, a youth tending his family's goats, was shot dead May 20 near Redford by a Marine on an anti-drug patrol.

"The idea here is not to determine any criminal guilt. It's to see if we can't find out what went wrong," Smith said in an interview.

He said his panel will try to investigate issues such as whether Border Patrol agents were given adequate training or supervision in their capacities of supervising the Marines who were being used as an adjunct to law enforcement agencies.

"The military can legitimately be used in a backup capacity," he said, but there are questions about the supervision they got from the Border Patrol.

A citizens group from Redford, visiting Washington to discuss the incident with officials, met with Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner and expressed their opposition to using the military in "any kind of civilian law enforcement," said Maria Jimenez of the American Friends Service Committee, which is helping the Redford citizens group.

She said the Texans told Meissner of their concern at what they said was the Border Patrol's treatment of citizens and the lack of accountability of the agents. Meissner "reiterated the deep concern this incident has raised. She did show sensitivity to the issue," Jimenez said.

She said the Redford group was "appreciative" of Smith's decision to hold hearings, even though his views of use of the military in law enforcement differs from those of the group, which seeks a demilitarization of the border.

A hearing will provide an opportunity to explore "what went awry. How are we dealing with this issue of border patrol. Even if Mr. Smith views it a different way," Jimenez said, the hearings will provide "a way of giving oversight of agencies. They have to give an account to Congress of what they're doing." Smith said he thinks the Redford group "may be trying to go beyond the parameters of the incident" in calling for a total border demilitarization.

But he said his hearing will focus partly on the fact that the INS, through the Border Patrol, "did supervise the individuals," referring to the Marines on an anti-drug patrol on the border.

He said he plans to call as witnesses "a number of administration officials" and to "focus on actions, training and supervision."

This article copyright 1997 the Houston Chronicle and is reproduced for non-profit educational purposes only.

return to Hernandez focus page  return to DPF-T home page

[an error occurred while processing this directive]