5:43 p.m. Thursday, January 20, 2011
Ga. lawmaker: U.S. border agents should ‘shoot to kill’ to defend themselves
Anti-Defamation League recently condemned similar statements by another lawmaker
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A state legislator who is spearheading efforts to curb illegal immigration in Georgia said U.S. border authorities should be empowered to “shoot to kill” under certain circumstances, although he later softened that comment.
Jason Getz, email@example.com
In this October photo, state Sen. Jack Murphy listens to a fellow member of the Joint House Senate Immigration Reform Committee at its first meeting . The panel has been charged with drafting legislation to stem the flow of illegal immigration in Georgia.
“Stop fooling around with it and say, ‘If they come across, you have the power to arrest them and arrest them on the spot,’ ” state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said during a panel discussion on immigration Wednesday night in Canton. “And if they start to cause you bodily harm, you have the right to shoot to kill them, like you would any other criminal.”
But in a telephone interview Thursday, Murphy said he misspoke when he said “shoot to kill” and that he could understand why some people might be concerned about those comments. Murphy, who is drafting omnibus legislation aimed at illegal immigration, said what he meant was that U.S. border authorities should be empowered to defend themselves.
“Now, I don’t know whether you shoot to kill them or not,” said Murphy, the co-chairman of a special legislative study committee on immigration. “Just … do what is necessary to defend yourself.”
After Wednesday night’s event — which was sponsored by the Republican Women of Cherokee County — Murphy said he would not step down as chairman of the state Senate’s Banking Committee. The legislator was in the news earlier this week after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. named him and seven other former insiders at a failed Alpharetta bank in a lawsuit seeking more than $70 million in damages. The FDIC alleges gross negligence and various breaches of fiduciary duty involving loans that Integrity Bank made from 2005 to 2007. Murphy was a member of the bank’s board of directors during that time.
The “shoot to kill” phrase came up while Murphy was answering a question from someone in the audience who asked what could be done to better secure the U.S.-Mexican border.
Murphy is the second Georgia legislator in as many years to use the phrase “shoot to kill” in the context of sealing the border. In October, the Southeast office of the Anti-Defamation League condemned state Rep. John Yates, R-Griffin, for his contention that troops on the U.S.-Mexico border should be given “shoot to kill” orders.
“I would say the National Guard should be armed …” Yates said at a political forum last year while he was running for re-election. “They ought to be armed, and word should leak over to Mexico … that we will shoot to kill if anybody crosses. And be serious about this. And if they do that, then there won’t be anybody killed because nobody is going to take a chance on it.”
Bill Nigut, the Southeast regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said Murphy’s “shoot to kill” comments send the message that “violence against undocumented workers is acceptable.”
“What is truly troubling about that is it to me is another example of the demonization of undocumented workers,” Nigut said. “It is conceivable that it is the sort of message that encourages people far from the border here in Georgia to look at undocumented workers as a frightening menace.”
Federal law permits U.S. Border Patrol agents to use deadly force to defend themselves and others, but the agents are also equipped with batons, pepper spray and other items they could use under different circumstances, said a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
“When somebody else is presenting that danger of death or serious bodily harm, then deadly force may be used,” said Lloyd Easterling, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In an interview after Wednesday night’s panel discussion, Murphy said he also wants to see more U.S. troops stationed along the U.S.-Mexican border, though he hadn’t decided on any numbers. He referred to how U.S. troops are now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and said, “if we have the money to put them there, why can’t we put them down there to protect our own borders?”
There are now about 1,000 National Guardsmen stationed along the U.S.-Mexican border, Easterling said. The guardsmen are not empowered to arrest and detain people caught illegally crossing the border, Easterling said, but they do help Border Patrol agents spot them.