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Jun-05-2010 19:28printcomments

Baja California News: Outcry Follows Migrant's Death

The death is currently under investigation by the San Diego Police Department’s homicide unit.

Port at San Ysidro
Port at San Ysidro Courtesy:

(SAN YSIDRO, Calif.) - A Mexican national who died after a confrontation with US border agents has become the latest symbol of the crisis surrounding US-Mexico relations and migrant affairs.

Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a 42-year-old father of five US-born children, died in a California hospital May 31, following a violent encounter with US Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry near San Diego three days earlier.

“We are deeply concerned about the incident,” Andrea Guerrero of the American Civil Liberties Union’s San Diego office told Frontera NorteSur. “We are calling for a transparent investigation of the incident.”

According to US Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Jacqueline Dizdul, Hernandez became combative and ignored orders to stop fighting after he resisted deportation.

Unidentified witnesses quoted in the Mexican and US press tell a different story, alleging Hernandez was assaulted, shocked with a Taser gun multiple times, and then repeatedly kicked and hit by as many as 20 officers even as he was screaming and writhing on the ground. Reportedly, personnel from Mexico’s National Migration Institute witnessed parts of the altercation.

Quickly lapsing into unconsciousness, Hernandez was transported to a local hospital where he was later pronounced dead. The San Diego coroner’s office ruled that high blood pressure, physical contact with the officers and the presence of methamphetamines were contributing factors to Hernandez’s death.

The death of the 20-year US resident drew criticism from the office of Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and Tijuana Archbishop Rafael Romo Munoz. Numerous videos and angry messages were posted on Twitter, You Tube and the websites of Mexico’s major news organizations.

Expressing an “energetic condemnation,” President Calderon’s office criticized the “excessive use of force” by US federal agents. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry also sharply condemned Hernandez’s death, announcing it was forming a legal team to monitor the outcome of the case.

With a diplomatic tussle brewing, US Ambassador Carlos Pascual and Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary John T. Morton spoke out at a Mexico City press conference last week. The high-ranking US officials said the Obama administration was very concerned about what Morton called a “very tragic death.”

Pro-immigrant groups mobilized rapidly to protest Hernandez’s death. On June 1, about 50 members of the Mexicali Civic Front briefly blockaded a border crossing to the US, where they also called for a boycott of Arizona because of the SB 1070 law that criminalizes undocumented immigrants. Civic Front leader Sergio Tamay said his group would work towards establishing a common front between pro-immigrant forces in Baja California and California.

On the US side, the Raza Rights Coalition and American Friends Service Committee organized a June 3 rally of more than 500 people at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Garnering gestures of support from many passing motorists and pedestrians, the event included the participation of members of Hernandez’s family.

“I ask for justice, not money,” said Maria de la Luz Rojas, Hernandez’s mother. “My son came to seek life and not death here.”

The Raza Rights Coalition’s Adriana Jasso also took aim at the Obama administration, criticizing the White House for not changing US immigration policy and failing to legalize undocumented residents of the US. “We are all Anastasio,” chanted the demonstrators.

In a statement released prior to the protest, the Raza Rights Coalition and American Friends Service Committee blasted Hernandez’s death.

“The killing of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas by Border Patrol agents is a clear indication of the climate of hate and repression that is being fomented every day against migrant communities and is tied to the current genocidal and murderous government policy,” the two groups charged. “Our silent protest will help expose the cruelty of a militarized border that is built upon a foundation of hate and repression.”

Hernandez’s death is currently under investigation by the San Diego Police Department’s homicide unit.

While acknowledging it did not have all the facts at hand, Amnesty International said the Hernandez incident should be an occasion for reviewing the use of Taser guns by the Border Patrol and strictly regulating their use. The international human rights organization urged a complete investigation of Hernandez’s death, including the publicizing of the autopsy report as soon as possible.


Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

Additional sources:

  • Agencia Proceso, June 3, 2010.
  • El Universal, May 29 and 30, 2010; June 3 and 4, 2010. Articles by Julieta Martinez, Notimex and editorial staff.
  • La Jornada, June 1 and 2, 2010. Articles by Antonio Heras, Notimex and DPA.
  • Frontera/SUN/Associated Press. May 30, 2010; June 2 and 5, 2010.
  • San Diego Union Tribune, May 29, 2010; June 1 and 3, 2010. Articles by Leonel Sanchez, Sandra Dibble and the Associated Press.
  • Agencia Reforma/El Sur, June 1, 2010. Article by Miguel Cervantes.

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

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Mark Stevens June 7, 2010 2:20 pm (Pacific time)

I grew up in an era where the cops beat on white people protesting a war. The news made those being beat on as the bad guys! Sometimes being white isn't so good. Oh yeah where was the "Hipanics" during the civil right marches??

justmy2cents June 6, 2010 10:59 pm (Pacific time)

yeah lets just ignore the fact that he was under the influence of methamphetamine right?

Archer June 6, 2010 6:28 pm (Pacific time)

Vic sorry to hear about your treatment by our border patrol. Maybe you are ID'd as a potential problem. You could get a freedom of info inquiry going and see if your tagged as someone who needs extra attention, and if so, you may have a legal recourse. Maybe someone made a complaint about you, if so, there would have to be a record if your name got entered into the system. I have heard many stories like yours and the treatment you received from the Mexican Feds seems to go many ways, especially if you are entering Mexico from the south.

Watchtower June 6, 2010 5:23 pm (Pacific time)

There's no way you can justify this. These power trip agents need to serve time for their actions.

Douglas Benson June 6, 2010 9:24 am (Pacific time)

The good old "stop resisting "while they beat you to death line . There is no excuse for this kind of behavior . These guys are well trained in submissions ,work as a team all the time ,and can hogtie just about anyone in ten seconds flat unless they want to beat the mess out of you. Im all for deportation but this is unacceptable for anyone .

Vic June 6, 2010 6:01 am (Pacific time)

The last time my wife and I (white-middle-aged Americans) crossed into the US from Mexico, we were sidelined, separated, interrogated, asked the same questions over and over, threatened with arrest for having a dolphin skull (I didnt know you couldnt), theatened with arrest because I had a bow and arrows in the van, our music equipment was searched and guitars x-rayed, my wife was yelled at, and then we were left to load all our things back into the van without a Thank You for cooperating, or an apology for the 45 minutes that we were detained. A day earlier, going through Sinaloa, we were searched by the Mexican Army. They were friendly, apologized profusely for having to search our van, did not separate us or ask us the same questions over and over, and then helped us load our things back in the van and then thanked us for our time and apologized again. We even took pictures with some of the soldiers. The US is taking the thug thing way too far....

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