Six Years Later, Justice Is Still Unserved
May 27, 2016
By Alexandra Mendoza
Six years after Mexican immigrant Anastasio Hernandez was killed by Border officers, his family continues in search for justice.
“The only thing that has moved forward is the fight, but as far as justice being achieved, nothing has changed,” shared Maria de la Luz Rojas, mother of the Mexican immigrant. “Until there is justice, our wounds cannot heal.”
On May 28, 2010, a group of Federal officers brutally beat the 42-year-old Mexican immigrant while he was handcuffed and on the ground. The incident occurred in plain sight at the former deportation area, mere steps north of the Tijuana border, and was captured by two videos that were seen around the world. The videos show that Anastasio was not resisting or fighting back against the beating or the Taser shocks, and can also be heard on more than one occasion crying for help.
Anastasio Hernandez’s case marked a before and after at the border. After the incident, more people started coming forward to report excessive use of force by Border Patrol.
Pressured by community organizations and Hernandez’s family, legislators demanded an investigation into the death of the Mexican immigrant, which the Office of the Medical Examiner classified as a homicide.
During the past six years, the Coalición de Comunidades Fronterizas (Border Communities Coalition) has recorded over 50 cases of abuse by Immigration officers throughout the border, without any known repercussions for the responsible parties.
Towards the end of last year, the U.S. Department of Justice closed the investigation into Anastasio Hernandez’s case, finding that the officers involved would not face criminal charges, as they did not find enough evidence to show that they acted with “malice.”
“After a careful and thorough review, experienced federal prosecutors determined that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution,” states the report issued by the Justice Department.
The decision led to Alliance San Diego activists deciding to bring the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in search of a decision that would lead to changes within agencies such as Border Patrol.
“We hope that [IACHR’s] the decision will be that there was a violation of human rights, and that evidence such as videos and witnesses were not taken into account. The videos clearly show who the people involved were,” expressed Anastasio’s brother Juan Hernandez.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently announced that the National Use of Force Review Board (NUFRB) will be looking into the investigation done after Hernandez’s death.
The Board was established by CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske (who took office in March, 2014) for the purpose of reviewing any incident involving the discharge of a firearm, as well as all use of force incidents resulting in serious injury or death.
CBP, which under Kerlikowske’s command has expressed their intention to increase accountability and transparency, stated that once the review is done, the results would be made public. Among them, the Board can make recommendations aimed at preventing the recurrence of these types of incidents.
Activists and the family of Anastasio have asked on several occasions for one of the changes to be for officers to wear cameras on their uniform, as a means to prevent any kind of abuse.
This past weekend, the family of the Mexican immigrant – born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico – participated in a community panel that exposed this incident, along with other cases of police abuse throughout the United States.
Maria Puga, Anastasio’s widow and mother of their five children, stressed that it is painful to see that police brutality incidents continue to occur in the United States, in most cases against minority groups such as Latinos and African-Americans.
“It makes you very angry, sick and tired of so much abuse. It just doesn’t stop. Whether it’s the police or other agencies, there continues to be killings, beatings, verbal abuse,” she decried.
A few days after the sixth anniversary of Anastasio Hernandez’s death, Maria Puga met with Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders, with whom she toured the emblematic Friendship Park that straddles the U.S.-Mexico border.
During their talk, the Senator promised that he would watch the videos of the incident that took place on that May, 2010 night.