In all this talk of immigration lately, people have been focusing a lot on the specific stands of Republican candidates and President Obama. While it's necessary to look to the future, of course, there's still today to deal with and the sad fact is that too many lives are being destroyed in here and now.
Take, for instance, Anastasio Hernández-Rojas, who was killed at the hands of U.S. Border Patrol agents in 2010. Although he was unarmed and defenseless, agents continued their attack by beating him and using tasers as he yelled out for them to stop. He was eventually taken to the hospital, where he died. It's no surprise that the cause of death was listed as homicide.
The reason for this case getting attention now is that PBS uncovered new footage of the attack and the network is airing it as part of a segment on Need to Know entitled "Crossing the Line." In partnership with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute, they've gathered footage and testimonies to investigate whether Border Patrol agents are using excessive force in their duties.
Meanwhile, Presente.org is taking action and demanding justice for Hernández-Rojas. They've started an online petition asking that the Department of Justice open an investigation into the case.
Cases like this are not as rare as we might hope, and as the PBS investigation points out, they're not being prosecuted. Now is the time to start asking questions about the type of training Border Patrol agents receive, the methods they use, and how they can be held accountable for the harm they inflict. Surely, there must be a better way of dealing with illegal immigration -- one that is, at the very least, humane.
And we can't forget that immigration, racism, and xenophobia are tied so closely together in this country that it affects many of us no matter how we got here or when. How many times have you heard someone say with spite, "go back to your country!" without even knowing if you're an immigrant or not? It's hard not to flinch when you hear something like that, just as it's hard to watch footage like the attack on Hernández-Rojas without thinking "that could be my brother/uncle/father."
So while we think about future immigration reform and the politics behind it, let's not ignore the hate and unjustified violence happening right now.
Watch a clip of the segment airing tonight, April 21, on PBS' Need to Know.