Anastasio Hernández Rojas lay face down on the ground, defenseless and screaming for help, on the evening of May 28, 2010 in San Diego, CA. His feet were bound and his hands were cuffed behind his back as Border Patrol agents beat him ruthlessly. Eye-witnesses pleaded for the agents to stop the beating, but they continued. After an agent shot Anastasio with a taser five times, he stopped breathing, and later died. Border Patrol agents have killed seven residents of border communities in the past two years, including a 15-year-old boy. Despite public outcry, protests, and countless meetings with agency leadership, the Border Patrol has taken no known action to ensure the agents involved are held accountable.
Unchecked abuse and brutality by the Border Patrol extends beyond the string of killings and serious injuries that have captured major media attention. Last year, the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths released a report addressing the 30,000 abuse against migrants by the Border Patrol the group has documented during the past three years. Abuses range from denial of needed food, water and medical attention to physical and psychological mistreatment. Despite protests and the filing dozens of complaints, justice has yet to be achieved in any of these cases.
In March, LAWG worked with human rights partners to bring the widespread culture of impunity in the Border Patrol in which abusive behavior goes unpunished and uncorrected to the attention of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In a hearing before the Commission, representatives from No More Deaths and other advocates testified about the dangerous and abusive U.S. Border Patrol practices, demanding accountability and transparency from the agency.
As John Carlos Frey, a migrant rights activist and actor, put it in a recently aired PBS documentary, “If we really do believe in law and order, let’s make our own officers accountable to that law and order. Let’s have a little transparency; people have died, people have been killed.” It’s time for the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, Customs and Border Protection, to be held accountable – and take concrete steps to prevent further abuse and brutality.