Last week, PBS broadcast "Crossing the Line," which chronicled the troubling issues surrounding US border security and the real stories that shape a debate that has divided Americans and the country's major political parties. PBS revisited the tragic story of Anastasio Hernández Rojas, whose death at the hands of US Border Patrol agents received national attention in 2010, when it ran a new video showing a helpless Rojas being tasered and tortured by agents.
So far, the US government has not released the names of the agents, nor has there been any public record of disciplinary action.
The PBS trailer showing the new video, was released last week on YouTube, and as of this morning, has gotten more than 94,000 views.
This video, which was shared by Rojas' family lawyer, who is suing the US government in a wrongful death suit, raises serious questions about the power of federal agents. Protecting the border from drug dealers and human smugglers is one issue, but does this type of abuse mesh with the principles of our country?
The attorney representing Hernández-Rojas' children, Eugene Iredale, said their father's death is a clear case of excessive force and abuse of power by the U.S. Border Patrol and its parent agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, that has been swept under the rug by federal prosecutors.
"It has been two years since Anastasio was killed, and the medical examiner ruled it a homicide, and we are still fighting to get simple discovery," Iredale told Reuters. "They applied 3,000 volts of electricity over and over to a helpless, handcuffed man and left him hog-tied until he was brain dead."
ABUSIVE OR ABUSED?
Hernández-Rojas, a construction worker and father of five who had lived in San Diego since he was 15 and had no criminal record, was arrested without incident on May 28, 2011, after he and a brother were caught sneaking back over the border from Mexico in the mountains east of San Diego.
The lawsuit, filed in January 2011, disputes federal authorities' assertions that he became combative, saying instead that Hernandez-Rojas became the victim of abuse when he asked to see an immigration judge. A border agent responded by slamming him against a wall and kicking him so hard in the ankles that it reopened a surgical wound in his lower leg.
Hernández-Rojas was then driven to a border crossing at San Ysidro to be summarily deported, and was assaulted by a group of agents there when he again demanded medical attention and a hearing before a judge, the complaint says.
Shoved to the ground while handcuffed, Hernández-Rojas was set upon by several agents who repeatedly punched, kicked and stomped on his head and body, then stood back as one officer administered a series of five electric shocks to him with a Taser, according to the lawsuit.
In the meantime, an online petition by presente.org has gotten over 20,000 signatures since it was launched last Friday.
You can follow the #Anastasio hashtag on Twitter, as social media is beginning to share more of this story. Last night, we received the following image from a San Francisco artist who is posting it on Facebook on the walls of many organizations: