For almost six years, the Hernandez Rojas family has asked our government to provide them with vindication and justice for the preventable death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas.
In 2010, Anastasio, a longtime resident of San Diego, was brutally beaten, shot with a Taser and killed by 13 U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents. Since his death, the Hernandez Rojas family has been subjected to delaying tactics and refusals to prosecute. Not only has our justice system failed this family, it has failed our communities.
Over the past few years, border residents and non-governmental organizations like theSouthern Border Communities Coalition(SBCC) have relentlessly advocated for this family’s justice. We are pleased to see that our efforts have not gone in vain. Our diligence has effected a shift in the structure of CBP. Through the development of the National Use of Force Review Board (NUFRB), Commissioner Kerlikowske has begun taking the necessary steps to promote more accountability and oversight. Now is the time for the agency to be transparent and to publically release the findings of the Board’s investigation on all cases that are under review, as well as updating the agency’s Use of Force Policy Handbook as recommended by the DHS Integrity Advisory Panel.
Since 2010, 46 people have been killed by border agents by use-of-force and coercion. Many more have been brutally beaten. While a few agents have faced charges, like Lonnie Swartz who shot and killed 16 year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, no agent has been held accountable since January 2010, even in some of the most egregious cases. These types of numbers further allude to CBP’s corrupt culture of violence and impunity, which represents a systemic failure within the agency; and the disregard for the preservation of human life.
Tens of millions of residents who call the border region home live under the threat of encountering border agents who can get away with murder. Simply put, our communities do not trust CBP agents. We firmly believe in protecting the paramount value of human life and promoting fairness, justice and transparency from law enforcement. To that end, we expect the NUFRB to hold these agents accountable because no law enforcement agent should be above the law.
What we need are systemic solutions that end the culture of violence and impunity at CBP and a strong value statement made by the Obama administration that human life must be preserved. Furthermore, the Obama administration must hold CBP (our nation’s largest federal police force) accountable to the highest professional policing practices. Any case involving use of force must be transparently investigated and those agents who have abused their power must be aggressively prosecuted.
Meaningful accountability and transparency starts with equipping all agents with body-worn cameras along with policy that will guarantee that agents who beat and kill people will be held accountable. The policy needs to have adequate privacy protections along with best practices in capture, retention and review of agent encounters with the public. Secondly, increased funds should be allocated to ensure that CBP’s internal affairs department is adequately staffed.
The time is now for the NUFRB investigative findings to yield a transparent outcome with justice for Anastasio and his family. The time is now to end the impunity and the systemic culture of violence within CBP.