An El Paso-based immigrant advocacy and human rights organization has renewed a demand for Washington to establish an independent oversight and review commission tasked with examining transparency, institutional violence and “the overall border enforcement strategy and its impact on border communities and families.”
The Border Network for Human Rights made the call following last week’s shooting death of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez allegedly by a Border Patrol agent at the international line separating Nogales, Arizona, from its sister city of Nogales, Sonora.
The young man was shot six times from the U.S. side of the border while he was in Mexico, according to a lawyer representing the victim’s family. Quoted in the local press, the Border Patrol said shots were fired from U.S. territory when its agents were accosted by rock throwers after observing smugglers toss drugs over a border fence.
“Verbal commands from agents to cease were ignored,” the Border Patrol said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Victor Brabble added that video footage of the incident was turned over to the FBI.
The Mexican Embassy in the U..S. swiftly condemned the October 10 shooting, adding that preliminary information “once again raises serious doubts about the U.S. of lethal force by Border Patrol agents..”
Elena Rodriguez was buried Sunday, October 14, after 200 people paid their last respects at a Nogales mass. His relatives have retained a U.S. attorney and are considering legal action.
“We are waiting for the investigation to conclude on both sides of the border,” family lawyer Luis Parra said this week. “The family wants justice, transparency and an answer to the doubts they have about the young man’s death.”
Parra described Elena Rodriguez as “a very good young man” with no criminal record who had plans of finishing school and joining the Mexican military. The teen might have been on the way to meet his brother when he was shot and killed, Parra said.
The Nogales shooting was the third reported killing of a Mexican national by the Border Patrol since the summer. On July 7, Border Patrol bullets were blamed for the death of 29-year-old Juan Pablo Perez Santillan on the Brownsville-Matamoros border of Texas and Tamaulipas. Guillermo Arevalo Pedraza, 36, was killed in a Border Patrol shooting September 3 at the border of Laredo/Nuevo Laredo, again in the Texas and Tamaulipas corridor.
The Border Network questioned rock throwing as a standard justification for lethal shootings, expressing concern that a U.S. judge’s adverse ruling in a lawsuit filed by relatives of 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, who was shot to death on the Ciudad Juarez side of the border by a Border Patrol agent in 2010 after allegedly throwing rocks, could result in a miscarriage of justice in this month’s Nogales incident.
In a statement, Border Network Executive Director Fernando Garcia placed the shootings in the larger context of a “failed” U.S. border strategy. “We have been insisting that the consequences of massive border enforcement and militarization, specifically in the lack of accountability and oversight, have led us to a disastrous human rights and civil rights situation at the U.S.-Mexico border,” Garcia contended.
According to Garcia’s group, previous demands that President Obama use his executive power to set up an independent body to monitor, investigate and oversee the activities of the Department of Homeland Security and other border-related security agencies have gone unanswered.
Additional sources: Laopinion.com/EFE, October 16, 2012. Nuevo Dia/El Universal, October 16, 2012. Nogalesinternational.com, October 15, 2012. Article by Jonathan Clark. Meganoticias.mx, October 15, 2012. Proceso/Apro, October 11, 2012. Frontera.info/Notimex, October 11, 2012. La Jornada, September 7, 2012. Article by Martin Sanchez, Carlos Figueroa and Notimex.
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Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico