The criminalization of immigrants in border states like Arizona has been in the news this week since the Supreme Court today begins hearing the U.S. federal government make the case that parts of Arizona’s S.B. 1070 step on the toes of national enforcement and therefore should be nixed. Not so much in the news is the way that federal policy has contributed to that criminalization and in fact has led the way by militarizing the Mexico U.S. border with deadly results.
Two years ago Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was killed by border patrol agents. You can find our original post about it here. At the time of his death, DREAMers in New York City were holding a hunger strike in front of Senator Schumer’s Manhattan office. Today, there is no DREAM Act, no New York Dream Act, and no justice for Anastasio Hernandez Rojas and the family he left behind. What we do have two years later is more hard evidence that the border patrol agents responsible for the death of a father and a husband acted brutally.
Last Friday, the PBS news series, Need to Know, in partnership with the Nation Institute, aired an investigation on the use of excessive force by U.S. border patrol agents. In this episode there is video evidence that 42 year old Hernandez Rojas was beaten. On his hospital deathbed, he is bruised. Eyewitness video features graphic heartbreaking screams of the father of five pleading for his life. Never before released eyewitness video shows a dozen or so border agents standing over and around Hernandez Rojas handcuffed and hogtied on the ground being tased five times. Not in the video, evidence of Hernandez Rojas being aggressive and violent as claimed by officials.
Although the official cause of death on Hernandez Rojas death certificate is homicide, the names of of those involved remain unknown. There is currently no investigation.
Far from being a one off, eight people have been killed along the border over the past two years at the hands of the largest police force in the U.S., border patrol agents. In all the cases there were no investigations. No trials and certainly no convictions. In fact according to the report, when the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request for information regarding Border Patrol policy and procedure on the use of force, specifically taser and deadly force, the response was useless blacked out papers. Is this the additional “boots on the ground” border policy that Obama so proudly proclaims? Is this what is being argued in favor of by a Department of Justice who is defending its right to enforce immigration laws while arguing against state laws like S.B. 1070?
I am not denying the horrible nature of state anti-immigrant legislation which impacts the daily life of all Latinos. But I will also not ignore the spirits of the dead like Anastasio, Sergio Adrian Hernandez Güereca, the spirits of the women sexually assaulted on the border by law enforcement, and Ramses Barron Torres – all crying for justice.