Before I begin this report let me be clear. I understand what US Border Patrol agents are up against every day. I understand the dangers involved as they carry out their jobs encountering drug traffickers and human smugglers. The dangers are very real and, as in the case of US Border Agent Brian Terry, sometimes very deadly. It is certainly not a job I would want and I respect these agents for the work they do in trying to prevent human smuggling and drug trafficking. For the most part the majority of US Border Patrol agents are good men and women doing their difficult job with professionalism. However, there are a few bad apples as there are in any organization, law enforcement or not. In the case of such bad apples they are the agents who need to be identified and weeded out of the agency. Sadly, this has not been the case when it comes to the public murder of Mexican national Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas.
Rojas was killed in May of 2010 at the US border entry in San Diego by US Border Patrol agents. The weapon of choice was a taser. Rojas was tasered five times by an agent. Rojas began convulsing from the taser strikes and stopped breathing. One agent clearly had his leg on Rojas’ throat near the end of the incident. Officers at the time claimed Rojas was on methamphetamines but a corners report identified the amount as small. Officers also claimed that Rojas was resisting but video shot of the entire incident on that night suggests Rojas was not resisting at all. Agents first claimed Rojas was not in handcuffs but later admitted he was handcuffed during the tasering. The San Diego County Corner ruled the death a homicide but none of the agents were charged with murder. The entire affair took place at the border entry where agents have driven Rojas in order to deport him back to Mexico. The tasering was witnessed by numerous people who filmed the incident on their cell phones and some of those people who saw the incident told agents to stop tasering him because he was not resisting. Agents did not stop tasering Rojas and agents demanded witnesses on the catwalk keep walking. At least one couple had their cell phone confiscated by agents because they had filmed the incident and others were told by agents to erase what they had filmed which is clearly illegal.
A new witness has come forward from Seattle, Washington who was on the catwalk that night and she filmed the entire incident. She says she feared for her own life and that’s why she has not come forward until now. She says the guilt got to her because she feels like she “witnessed a murder” that night on the US-Mexico border in San Diego. PBS has obtained that video and it is included in a new report in their series “Need to Know.” You can watch the report at the PBS link below.
In the past two years eight people have been killed on the border excluding drug and human smugglers. All of these incidents involved US Border Patrol agents and the possibility that they used excessive force in carrying out their duties. The US Department of Justice has done little about these instances and the killing of Rojas raises questions about US Border Patrol accountability. The USBP is part of the US Department of Homeland Security and as such they are NOT subject to the same public scrutiny as are regular police officers in the US who use their weapons to kill a suspect. The biggest question of all concerning the eight cases over the past two years including the Rojas case is why are these cases not being prosecuted by the DOJ?
In the Rojas case it was investigated by the San Diego Police Department and the corner ruled his death a “homicide.” However, none of the dozen or so agents at the scene that night have been arrested and charged with murder. At the time of the killing in May 2010 the incident was only briefly reported by the US media. In Mexico the killing became a big story and people were outraged over it. Since that time it’s all been going away, however. That is until now. Now that a new video recording has been brought forward by the witness from Seattle and this video is causing outrage to grow on both sides of the border once again.
Rojas was in the US and was arrested for shoplifting. Upon his arrest it was determined he was in the US illegally. He was detained for deportation and Rojas claimed that one of the agents who arrested him used excessive force. Rojas filed a lawsuit against the agent. When it came time for Rojas to be deported he was separated out from the rest of the illegals who were to be deported that day by US Border Patrol back to Mexico. Rojas was placed in a USBP SUV and taken to the border entry in San Diego by the SAME agent that Rojas had filed the lawsuit against! In one of the videos taken that night you can see Rojas laying on the ground at the back of the SUV with two agents standing over him. Presumably these are the two agents who were transporting him that evening with one being the agent Rojas had filed the lawsuit against. These two agents attempted to put Rojas back into the SUV, they told San Diego Police. Rojas braced his legs up against the door frame so they could not get him back into the SUV. Agents then apparently called for backup and about a dozen other USBP agents arrived. That is when the tasering began and one agent put his leg on Rojas throat. In the video another agent can be seen stripping off Rojas’ pants for no apparent reason than public humiliation. Witnesses were standing on the catwalk looking down at the incident as they were re-entering the US from visits in Mexico that evening. Every witness found and interviewed says that Rojas was not resisting. They said the agent kept tasering him even when he was not moving but was still screaming for help in Spanish. Some of the witnesses yelled down to the agents to stop tasering Rojas. Agents yelled up to the crowd for them to keep moving. At least one of the cell phones that had recorded the incident was taken by agents that evening and other witnesses were asked what they recorded and were told to erase those recordings.
There are several very disturbing details about that night in May 2010 at the San Diego border entry. Details that raise many questions that demand answers! For one, why was Rojas singled out for special transport from the detention center to the border that night? Why was he not transported with the other illegals to the border? Why was Rojas transported by one of the agents whom he had filled a lawsuit against? Further, why did agents keep tasering Rojas and yelling at him to stop resisting even though it is clear from the videos shot that night that Rojas was NOT resisting at all? And then there is the billion dollar question. Why is the US Justice Department not investigating this incident? And since the Coroner ruled Rojas’ death a “homicide” then why have the agents involved in his killing not been arrested and prosecuted for murder?
I must ask yet another billion dollar question. Is it because Rojas was just another illegal Mexican? And can someone tell me why I feel this IS the reason?
Illegals from Latin America crossing the US-Mexico border is a hot issue as we all well know. It’s a hot political, economic, and legal issue that seems to have no resolution in sight. However, what about the human aspect? Ok, Rojas was an illegal and he didn’t belong here but did that warrant his obviously cruel death? Watching the video shot that night in May 2010 reminds me of a bunch of sharks swarming around some bleeding frenzy! In my mind that is disgusting and not professional behavior I’d expect from the USBP or any other law officer. Why did some of the other agents at the scene not tell the officer with the taser to stop? Why did that command come from witnesses on the catwalk? A command that was ignored.
Something else in the video that really bothers me is why one agent stripped off Rojas’ pants and took them away. To me it seems that was an act of humiliation. Public humiliation no less as witnesses were looking on! Whatever was going on in the minds of the agents who tasered Rojas and the one who stripped him of his pants that night was EXCESSIVE lunacy! And that shark feeding frenzy needs to be investigated again, thoroughly.
Getting back to the human factor in this case and all the other such incident. I understand that not only is the border issue a hot issue but it is also an issue literally overflowing with hatred and racism on BOTH sides of the controversy. So I must ask yet another question. Has our hatred blinded us to the human factor involved in the border issue?
Love them or hate them the people coming across the border illegally are still PEOPLE. They are still human beings! And as such they are deserving of dignity and to be treated with respect as people. They are not animals! They are human beings with feelings, hopes, and disappointments just like you and I have. What has happened, sadly, is we have demonized these people and that makes it much more easier for us to blame and strike out at and hate them. That’s what always happens when we demonize ANYONE. Once we demonize anyone it then becomes much easier for us to hate, assault, and even kill them because we stop seeing them as fellow human beings and start seeing them as animals or something else. Demonization is dangerous! That’s why no one should engage in it.
Rojas was a man. A human being with a wife and small children. His mistake was that he came into the US illegally and YES he should have come in legally. But he did not like so many others. However, the fact that he made this mistake does not warrant his killing in my mind. He should have been loaded up with other illegals that night and not separated out and deported back to Mexico, simply. The fact that he WAS singled out from the rest that night and the fact that one of the agents who transported him was the agent Rojas had filled a lawsuit against is very disturbing and even alarming. Who made that decision? Who authorized that agent to single out Rojas and transport him away from the rest of the illegal group? Whoever made that decision made a very poor and DEADLY decision and I hope the guilt is eating them alive! The RIGHT and MANLY thing for that person to do would be to now come forward and say they made that decision and it was wrong. But in America today we really don’t do the right thing or the manly thing do we?
Was the agent whom Rojas had filed the lawsuit against seeking revenge? Did something inside that agent snap that night Rojas died? Did he plan to kill Rojas all along and make sure he never walked back into Mexico? Who was this agent and what was his reasoning behind singling out Rojas that night for private transport? All of these questions must be asked and answered and JUSTICE MUST BE SERVED!
Aggression, hate, and murder are NOT going to solve the border problem! Demonizing illegals is not going to solve the problem either. Instead of all of these elements of racism and insanity we need to perhaps have some humanity and start acknowledging the human factor. We might get a lot further in resolving the border problem if we do! Don’t get me wrong. I DO NOT support illegal immigration from ANY country into the US!! I do, however, support the HUMAN FACTOR and think we need to keep that factor in mind and not let our anger and hate blind us to our fellow human beings no matter where they come from.
I have often found myself to be in a minority when it comes to the border problem because I think the problem is in Mexico as well as in the US. In terms of the US the border problem involves our unquenchable desire for illegal drugs and cheap labor in this country and Mexico is providing both. The drug problem is OUR problem America! If we did not have such a desire for illegal drugs then there would be no market for them and the drug runners would be out of business. No market equals no money profit which equals no lucrative business. That’s basic economics and common sense. If we really want to address the drug problem then I really think we need to address ourselves and our unquenchable desire to use illegal drugs! As for cheap labor of course getting someone to work for you at the cheapest pay rate is good business but there is a fine line between doing that and exploiting someone. What happens with cheap illegal immigrant labor is exploitation and NOT good business practice! Whenever any human being exploits another it is ALWAYS WRONG! We need to take a close look at that too and acknowledge that we are exploiting these people coming across our border. And that’s wrong!
Further, I’m a strong advocate that in terms of economics when it comes to the border problem the cause lies in Mexico. Poverty in Mexico is rampant. Many people do not even know where their next meal is going to come from. There are no jobs! The economy is and always has been far worse that the American economy. Add that to the gross level of corruption in all levels of Mexican government and you’ve got the recipe for perpetual disaster in terms of the human factor! I’ve advocated for many decades now that one of the solutions to the border problem is to build up the Mexican and Latin American economies and create jobs in those countries for their own people. If these people can get jobs in their own countries and support their families then they would not be coming to the US illegally unless they were part of the crowd that likes to fulfill our need for illegal drugs and/or cheap labor. Corruption in Mexican and Latin American governments must be weeded out and has been badly in need so for a long long time. Poverty in Latin American nations needs to be confronted and resolved. Where is the UN in this matter? Where are all the do-gooders when it comes to Mexico and Latin America? Few are to be found I’m afraid. We’ll scream about poverty and corruption happening half way around the world but when it comes to Mexico and Latin America we are all strangely silent and blissfully ignorant for some reason.
At the recent Summit of the Americas held in Colombia the President of Guatemala, Molina, proposed legalizing drugs as a way to stop the illegal drug trade from Latin America into the US and world. Molina’s reasoning is that if made legal then the drug industry can be regulated like any other industry and taxed. Molina’s idea IS worthy of discussion and discussion was the primary reason he proposed this idea at the summit. Sadly, Molina’s idea was met with silence for the most part and the old “you can’t be serious” dogma. And, of course, the big story was the US Secret Service agents $47 night with prostitutes and cocaine use prior to the arrival at the summit of US President Barack Obama. That story is what captured global attention. Not Molina, sadly. Molina and many other Latin American leaders know that the War on Drugs is an absolute failure and they are wanting new options and new approaches to combating the illegal drug trade. His suggestion to legalize drugs may not be the answer but is worthy of discussion. For more on Molina and the Summit see the SDNP article at:
When people live under the dark and evil scepter of poverty many will come to a point at which they will do anything in order to survive and that includes even risking their own lives. Poverty makes people desperate. Poverty makes people do crazy and even stupid things. The FACT is that that IS one reason the illegals cross the border illegally. Sorry but the excuse that they want to come into the US to suck off our welfare rolls doesn’t hold water as US welfare does NOTHING for the families of illegals back in Mexico or Latin America. You can’t get US food stamps or free US healthcare if you live in Mexico or Argentina and that’s another FACT like it or not.
Returning to the case of Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas people on both sides of the border are wanting a complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding the evening he died in public view at the San Diego border crossing point. People are wanting to know if agents used excessive force that resulted in his death that night. People are wanting answers to the very questions I’ve asked in this report. We all deserve answers! If USBP agents acted inappropriately that night and a HUMAN LIFE was lost needlessly that night then justice needs to be served. In America NO ONE is above the law and that INCLUDES US Border Patrol agents. If they committed murder then they need to be arrested, charged, and brought to trial and punished just like anyone else. They are not above the law and ignoring this case is NOT going to make it go away. Now that new video and new witnesses have come forward this case is going to once again capture public attention I’m sure. All people are asking for is justice. A MAN died that night in May 2010. A HUMAN BEING with a family. At the very least we owe it to him and his family to determine once and for all just what happened that night in that apparent shark-like feeding frenzy. If nothing was done illegally in causing Rojas’ death and if agents did not use excessive force then there is nothing to worry about. However, IF Rojas’ was murdered that May 2010 night then it needs to be exposed and the killers need to answer for it.
We will keep following this case as it progresses and we’ll be doing some investigating into it of our own. This looks to me like an act of great injustice that cannot and must not be ignored.
Editors Note Regarding Comments:
We’ve received some very racist and hateful comments regarding this story sadly. Fact of the matter is this man was a HUMAN BEING! If you don’t have any compassion for your fellow human being then move on down the road because your racist and hateful comments WILL NOT BE POSTED on the SDN Press site! You might think that such unlawful behavior by USBP agents is for illegals only but what will you think when they are treating you this way? Surely you know how the POLICE STATE begins don’t you? First it’s the illegals, next the criminals, and then they come for YOU. Get a clue!