The Associated Press is reporting that a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed Sergio Adrián Hernández Huereca, a 14-year-old boy on the U.S. side of the Paso Del Norte bridge in El Paso, Texas. According to the FBI, border patrol agents were assaulted by rock throwers across the border in Mexico. T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, believes the use of “deadly force” was a justified response. “It is a deadly force encounter,” Bonner told the Associated Press. “One that justifies the use of deadly force.”
Despite the border patrol agent’s undeniable “deadly use of force,” reports confirm that he was not injured and it still is not known whether Hernández Huereca was directly involved in the alleged rock throwing.
Rock-throwing assaults represent a diminishing, but persistent threat that border patrol agents have faced over the years. In 2007 the Associated Press reported that U.S. officials equipped Border Patrol SWAT teams with tear gas, “flash bombs” that emit blinding light and “sting ball” grenades that disperse hundreds of tiny rubber pellets to “spare lives” when responding to such assaults. However, the violent, and potentially deadly treatment of Mexican migrants has not been avoided entirely. In March 2007, an agent shot and killed a 20-year-old Mexican man whose arm was cocked back in a location where rock attacks frequently occurred. Two years before that, an agent fatally shot a rock thrower at the San Diego-Tijuana border. Just this past Saturday, U.S. Border Patrol agents shot and injured two individuals in San Miguel, Arizona following a rock-throwing assault. Last week, a different U.S. Border Patrol agent pleaded guilty to assaulting and violating a Mexican man’s civil rights by kicking the victim, striking him in the stomach with a baton, throwing him down to ground, and punching him. Innocent families caught in the middle of the crossfire have long been complaining about the indiscriminate use of tear gas and pepper spray.
The shooting of Hernández Huereca also comes just days after the death of Anastacio Hernández, a father of five U.S. born children who was shot with a stun gun by a Customs and Border Protection officer two weeks ago at the San Ysidro border crossing as he resisted being deported. While Customs and Border protection maintain their actions were necessary to “subdue the individual and maintain officer safety,” the victim’s family and immigrant advocates believe his death was a result of a failed immigration system. Last week, the San Diego County coroner ruled that his death was a homicide. Once again, reports suggest that the agent who fired the shot was virtually unharmed.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has condemned what some officials like Bonner apparently view as a reasonable use of deadly force, expressing “energetic protest of the torture and death of Anastasio Hernandez, a Mexico who died at the hands of North American migration authorities.” “[A] death with that degree of violence is a truly unacceptable violation,” Calderon said. “We need to raise all our voices, not only for Mexico but for human rights, because the cause of migrants is a cause that affects us all.” While some have slammed Calderon’s criticisms, it’s hard to believe that the U.S. would not respond even more harshly if an American citizen had been treated similarly by Mexican agents.
Back in 1997, a completely innocent 18-year-old, Esequiel Hernández Jr., was accidentally shot by a U.S. Marine in Redford, Texas, one mile from the Mexican border. His death, which was widely considered a “casualty of the [militarized] drug war,” sparked outrage and led Defense Secretary William Cohen to temporarily suspend troop patrols near the U.S.–Mexico border. Despite the fact that the U.S. side of the border is presently “one of the safest parts of America,” Republicans today continue calling for more boots on the ground to combat dangerous drug cartels.