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Mexico: Two Deaths on the Border in Ten Days

Citizens of Mexico are in shock over the unexpected deaths of two Mexicans as a result of two separate clashes with the United States Border Patrol. These incidents occurred less than a month apart: the brutal attack of Anastacio Hernández [es], a Mexican worker who lived in California for 20 years, in the international crossing of San Ysidro-Tijuana, and the shooting of 15-year-old Sergio Adrián Hernández in the border of El Paso-Ciudad Juárez [es]. The similarity of the two deaths have provided new grounds for citizen media to evaluate the actions of the Mexican government towards the United States in terms of migration and foreign policy.

Newspaper La Jornada reported [es] that Anastacio Hernández was beaten up on May 28 by the Border Patrol in the international crossing of San Ysido-Tijuana, after he was apprehended because he lacked migration documents. He was a Mexican worker who lived in California for 20 years, where he fathered his children. La Jornada also says [es] that about 20 officers from the Border Patrol used both physical force and stun guns against the worker, provoking cerebral death; one day later, Anastacio died.

The brutal attack on Anastacio Hernández was recorded on video with a cellphone by a student from California who was at the border at the time. The video can be viewed on YouTube. The student, a witness that will be declaring on Anastacio's case according to CNN Mexico, told newspapers that Anastacio was handcuffed all the time and never resisted to the patrol officers.

Border US-Mexico. Photo by PhillipC. Used following a Creative commons license. Taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/flissphil/5883071/

Border US-Mexico. Photo by Flickr user PhillipC. Used under a Creative commons license.

The situation for Sergio Adrián Hernández was similar to Anastacio's in many ways, with the exception that he was in Mexican territory when he was killed. CNN Mexico reported that [es] on June 7, Sergio and other three persons threw rocks at the Border Patrol officers after they were caught sneaking into the border. In the struggle, the police shot Sergio in the head, an act they described as “self-defense”.

A clip from a news program replays a video of Sergio and others trying to cross the border and the response from the Border Patrol.

Both deaths are a reflection of the tension between Mexico and the United States after the controversial immigration law S.B. 1070, approved in late April by the state of Arizona in the United States. The law states that under reasonable suspicion that a person is residing unlawfully in the United States,  “a reasonable attempt” shall be made by law enforcement to determine the immigration status of the person. After much criticism that this law would lead to racial profiling, changes were made to the wording so that law enforcement cannot consider race, color or national origin as a factor in implementing this law.

Reflecting on the two clashes between Mexican citizens and Border Patrol agents, blogger Franz from El Arcangelino considers the relationship between the countries as a very delicate matter:

El hecho de que los americanos estén respondiendo de esta manera nos habla de que se está radicalizando la protección fronteriza de los vecinos hasta las consecuencias más severas.

The fact that the Americans responded this way speaks to us about the radicalization of our neighbor's border protection up to the most severe consequences.

Although the Mexican government has condemned the actions that caused the death of Anastacio and Sergio [es], and demanded a thorough investigation of the events, citizens recognize that the reaction from Mexican officials towards the issue of immigration is still condescending and weak, as blogger TRC criticized [es] in his blog:

A la luz de estos indignantes acontecimientos no nos queda más que preguntarnos ¿hasta cuándo mantendrá la SRE [Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores] una política exterior condescendiente (por no decir agachona)? ¿Cuándo se tomará una represalia pacífica pero contundente contra los EUA por los actos de racismo y discriminación que viven día a día los mexicanos de los más bajos estratos sociales que radican en la frontera norte? ¿Cuándo entenderá Patricia Espinosa [Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores] que un “tibio” comunicado no es una reacción suficiente ante la sistemática y reiterada violación de derechos fundamentales contra mexicanos por parte del país vecino?

In the light of these shameful events there is nothing left but to ask ourselves, until when will the SRE (Foreign Policy Secretary) have a condescending foreign policy (not to say submissive)? When will a peaceful but convincing reprisal be made against thee US for their acts of racism and discrimination lived daily by the Mexicans of the lowest social spheres that live in the Northern border? When will Patricia Espinosa [Secretary of Foreign Policy] understand that a “warm” press release is not enough of a reaction reaction against the systematic and reiterative violation of the fundamental rights of Mexicans by the neighbor country?

On the other hand, blogger Daniel Muñoz believes that what happened to Sergio, who was killed in Mexican territory, brings a complete new set of circumstances [es] within the context of Mexico's foreign policy to the United States:

Creo que el gobierno mexicano debe hacer a niveles internacionales, lo que comúnmente conocemos como un “señor pancho”, si la violación a nuestra frontera y peor aún, el asesinato de un civil en suelo mexicano, no es motivo para levantar la voz, entonces resignémonos a ser el eterno patio trasero norteamericano, aquel concepto que Aguilar Zinser inventó acertadamente siendo embajador de la ONU.

I think the Mexican government needs to “cause a ruckus” [out of the event] at international levels, if the violation of our border, and even worst, the murder of a civilian in Mexican territory, is not a reason to speak out, then let's resign ourselves to be the eternal backyard of the Unites States, that concept so appropiately created by Aguilar Zinser when he was a UN ambassador.

For blogger Roberto from La borla del Hombligo, Sergio's death is a reminder [es] of all the young people that are vulnerable to bullets from drug traffickers in their own country and from their neighbors, the Border Patrol:

No, Sergio no murió cruzando la frontera, Sergio murió en su país y ahora su país tendrá que ver por él.

No, Sergio did not die crossing the border, Sergio died in his country and now his country will have to respond for him.

Finally, following the fondness Mexicans have for using parody and humor even in the most difficult of situations, Twitter user Miguel Burgos (@burdolab) joined the protest under the hashtag #MurderPatrol, referring to Sergio's death with a parody version of a biblical phrase [es]:

El que esté libre de #murderpatrol que arroje la primera piedra

He who is without the #murderpatrol cast the first stone

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