Wednesday, April 25, 2012

US Border Patrol: What We Need to Know

PBS now has a documentary series called Need to Know, and on Friday, April 20th, it aired the story, Crossing the Line at the Border: an investigative report that uncovers the sad and disturbing details surrounding the murder of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, an undocumented immigrant, by US border patrol agents.

Hernandez Rojas was caught not far from San Diego trying to enter the country illegally. While in the custody of border patrol agents, he was kicked in the ankle more than once, and when he asked to report the incident, he was taken to the border by vehicle, with his assailant in the car with him. Once at the border, eye-witnesses crossing back in to the US saw (and video recorded) a group of agents beat Hernandez Rojas, taser him a total of 5 times, and all while his arms and legs were tied. Soon after the incident, Hernandez Rojas died.

Unfortunately, what happened to Hernandez Rojas isn't a chance happening. According to PBS there have been “eight cases in less than two years followed by no public hearings, no criminal charges and no trials, including the Hernandez Rojas case.” One such case in Arizona in March, 2011, was of a 19 year-old Mexican-American who was shot "three times in the back as he climbed the fence back into Mexico.” Because of cases like these, and because of the border patrols' ability to freely police the border without impunity, humanitarian groups like No More Deaths, are calling the US border patrol abuses a Culture of Cruelty.

Talk about need to know. Did you know that “customs and border protection is now the largest law enforcement agency in the nation. Employing almost 60’000 agents and employees”? And yet, they are not held to the same scrutinies and checks that local police, county sheriff, or any other federal agents are held to. Did you know that “border agents are assaulted at a dramatically lower rate than police and, unlike police, are typically assaulted with rocks, not knives and guns”? And did you know “only once in ten years has a US border agent been criminally charged for killing a migrant, and that case was dismissed”?

To those people who say, they came here illegally, they get what they deserve, I ask the question, when did illegally crossing the border become a crime punishable by death? When did a border patrol agent become judge, jury, and executioner?

Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was a man trying to return to his wife and five children in the US. He was a man that begged for his life at the hands of nearly a dozen border patrol agents. He did not deserve to be hog-tied, beaten, and tasered to death.

Please take 20 minutes to watch the story. Be warned that recordings of the beating and Anastasio's cries for help do air in the story, but please do not turn away. We need to know.

And now that we know, isn't it time we get outraged?

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