Thursday, Jun 10, 2010, 7:42 am
Weekly Diaspora: Border Patrol Gone Wild
by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger
A Border Patrol agent shot and killed a 14-year-old Mexican boy on June 7. At RaceWire, Julianne Hing reports that “Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca [was] on the Mexican side of the El Paso-Juarez border [and] was shot and killed by a Border Patrol officer, who was on the U.S. side.” The incident has been condemned by the Mexican government and sparked investigations by the Customs and Border Protection agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The exact details are still being investigated. The Border Patrol claims that the teen was throwing rocks at agents, but eye-witnesses on the Mexican side of the border say otherwise.
An eye-witness account
Democracy Now! quotes an eye-witness who says that Hernandez Huereca was clearly on Mexican soil, playing with other youths when an agent shot at the entire group and killed the 14-year-old Juarez resident as he was taking cover.
“Once the youngsters were on Mexican soil, an official—I don’t know if he was an immigration agent or a police officer—arrived on a bike, wearing a white shirt, a helmet and shorts,” the witness says. “He shot at the youngsters, at the whole group. Some ran in one direction, and others in another. This one teenage victim hid behind the wall. He looked out, and that’s when the teenager was shot."
Twice in two weeks
The shooting was the second deadly Border Patrol-related incident in two weeks. On May 26, Anastacio Hernández-Rojas, 32, was allegedly beaten and hit with a stun gun by agents in California after he became combative. His death has been ruled a homicide by the San Diego County medical examiner's office and an investigation is ongoing.
Going back to Racewire, Maria Jimenez, an organizer with the Houston-based immigrant rights group America Para Todos, says that such incidents have a tendency to be swept under the rug. According to Jimenez, in the 1990s, agents committed at least 33 unwarranted shootings in a single year.
“Some of them we don't even know about, they just don't reach the public," Jimenez says. "They know about it, but we don't."
Border Patrol corruption
Border Patrol agents also face accusations of charging a steep price to allow undocumented people to cross into the United States.
At New American Media, Anthony Advincula writes about the perilous journey many immigrants take to cross the border. He interviews Guatemalan immigrant Danilo Gonzalez, who paid $7,500 to a human smuggling ring that could call in favors from the Border Patrol.
“When we reached the Mexican border, we were asked to get off and transferred to a different bus. All of us were together,” Gonzalez recalls. “The traffickers had good connections to U.S. authorities; they paid some Border Patrol officers. After many hours of traveling, we were finally transported to Arizona.”
Crime down along the border
The Obama administrations' decision to send 1,200 National Guard troops to the border is exacerbating the situation. But the troops aren't there because of immigration, according to White House officials. They're supposed to keep a lid on drugs and other violent trafficking crimes along the Rio Bravo.
That argument doesn't hold water, as violence in U.S. border cities—especially those with high immigrant populations—is actually down. At Care2, Jessica Pieklo reports that “Violent crime in Arizona, and other states that have a significant immigrant populations, has been consistently on the decline, especially recently.”
Pieklo explains that after a spike in 2006 and 2007, the number of violent crimes reported in Phoenix, Arizona, including murder, dropped 13 percent in 2009.
The decrease isn't because of Arizona's tough anti-immigration laws. Pieklo notes that “El Paso, Texas remains one of the safest cities in the country with only 12 murders last year, despite the fact that right across the border a drug war rages in Juarez, Mexico.”
ICE and BP
Moving along to what is likely to be the worst environmental disaster in United States history, the notorious BP oil spill has now become a cause for immigrant rights supporters who are appalled by reports that the federal government is using the crisis to detain immigrant clean-up workers.
GritTV spoke with Mallika Dutt, executive director of Breakthrough, about the crackdown. Dutt noted that “it is easier to crack down on immigrants (sending ICE to check up on workers cleaning up BP's mess) than oil companies, and that activists around these issues need to work together as civil disobedience rises around the country.”
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.