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A Death on the Border: A Case Study in Process and Policy

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This paper recounts the shooting death of a U.S. high school sophomore, Ezequiel Hernandez, Jr., by the leader of a team of camouflaged U.S. Marines who were observing a part of the Rio Grande known for its illegal drug trafficking into the United States. The team, led by Corporal Clemente Banuelos, was operating as part of Joint Task Force Six JTF-6, a Defense Department multi-service organization assisting the U.S. Border Patrol by providing additional eyes and ears along the U.S.-Mexico border. Ezequiel Hernandez Jr. had become an unexpected and unexplainable casualty of the war on drugs. Exactly what happened that evening will never be fully known. The Marines near Redford, Texas, were one small part of the Department of Defenses support to the Justice Departments war on drugs. Their presence had been requested by the Justice Department, approved by the Department of Defense DoD, and authorized by the Congress of the United States. Nobody expected that Ezequiel Hernandez would be killed that evening, but the shooting set off a flurry of investigations, public statements, media interest, and policy reviews that provide an excellent case study of the process that shapes U.S. national security policy. A study of the people involved in this case and the roles they played in it is valuable for anyone who participates in the development of national security policy. To date, the DoD continues to support domestic law enforcement agencies in counterdrug operations however, all ground reconnaissance missions, including Listening PostObservation Post missions such as the one conducted near Redford, have been suspended. There has been no clarification of the civil or criminal liabilities of military personnel who participate in counterdrug operations. Only the Marine Corps found anyone at fault for the shooting. Other agencies responsible for the development and execution of the policy sidestepped and remained silent.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Unconventional Warfare

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