On May 29, 2012, 118 organizations sent a letter to President Obama urging him to address the repeated use of excessive force by Customs and Border Protection agents. Such force has resulted in the killing or serious injury of at least nine southern border residents since 2010, and the agency has continued to operate with very little transparency or accountability.
In one such case that occurred in June 2010, undocumented migrant Anastasio Hernandez Rojas was beaten and tased as he lay handcuffed on the ground and surrounded by more than a dozen CBP agents. A recent PBS special report titled “Crossing the Line at the Border” reveals an eyewitness video showing that Mr. Hernandez Rojas was not resisting or combative, and that despite pleas from bystanders and Mr. Hernandez Rojas himself, the agents continued to beat him. Mr. Hernandez Rojas stopped breathing and later died as the result of his injuries. As the letter to President Obama notes, in the two years that have passed since his death, no agents have been held accountable for his death.
In the letter, WOLA and other signing organizations denounce the use of excessive force by CBP agents and urge President Obama to direct the Department of Justice to conduct thorough investigations of all such incidents. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security should review CBP policies on training and the use of force in order to ensure that a culture of abuse is not allowed to take root.
As the letter notes, “Law enforcement agencies must be held accountable to the laws they are charged with enforcing, and no federal agent should be allowed to operate above the law. Otherwise, the lack of accountability and rule of law erodes public trust in the federal government and ultimately jeopardizes public security.”
For more information on the security buildup along the U.S.-Mexico border and its human rights implications, please see WOLA’s latest publication Beyond the Border Buildup: Security and Migrants Along the U.S.-Mexico Border.
If you would like to support the campaign for justice for Mr. Hernandez Rojas’ family and the families of others who have been victimized, please sign the petition calling on the Department of Justice to conduct an open and thorough investigation of all the killings committed by Customs and Border Protection since 2010. You can sign the petition here.