May 1st, 2012
The Death Of Anastasio Hernandez: The Silence Is An Outrage

By Victor Landa

Who is Anastasio Hernandez Rojas? It’s a lamentable question.

The fact that Anastasio’s isn’t a household name speaks to a pile of issues that seem out-of-sync with all the noise about the rise of the Latino community –  its population and attendant political and buying power, its increasing use of social media and strong community habits. Somewhere in all that expansion we’ve lost sight of the plight of eight lives and those of their families, Anastasio’s is but one.

So who is he?

Investigative journalist Carlos Frey brought him to our attention last month, and he wrote about it in the Huffington Post:

Last week I sat with Maria Puga as she watched the PBS “Need to Know” episode of an investigation into the brutal beating, tasing and subsequent death of her husband and the father of their 5 children, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas. They had been together for decades when he was deported and then killed by U.S. border officials in May of 2010.

The tape shows what looks to be more than twelve Border Patrol officers beating a man who was handcuffed and hogtied on the ground – tasing him, kicking him, hitting him with billy clubs.

Frey dug further.

In total, U.S. border officials have killed at least eight border residents in the past two years. Some of the victims were undocumented, three were standing in Mexico and two were U.S. citizens. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have kept the details of the investigations secret.

Not one of those cases has gotten the attention they deserve from the national media. One wonders, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, why not? The Hernandez Rojas videotape was released on the last week of April, and following that, according to Frey , there was a smattering of news attention, and I remember getting at least one Twitter nudge about it. But the press focus was nowhere near what it should have been.

I think this is emblematic of the dehumanizing effect of the terminology used for undocumented people. It’s easy to turn away if the victim is “illegal” and the perpetrators of the abuse carry official badges.  But that doesn’t answer a deeper question.

Why hasn’t the Latino community reacted?

This week Anastasio’s widow will meet Shena Wilson, the wife of a similar victim, this one left in a coma after a brutal border Patrol beating. The two women will hold a press conference to urge the Obama administration to prosecute the unresolved cases. It’ll be another chance for Latino’s to take notice.

It is said that people remain alive as long as there are people to remember them. This, then, serves as a life saving notice.

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