The killing of 15-year-old Sergio Andres Hernandez Guereca by a Border Patrol agent points tragically to a defective border enforcement system that encourages hatred and fear.
Initial reports stated that a man had been killed during a confrontation in which a Border Patrol agent was assaulted. A cell phone video taken by a witness shows the chaos of that encounter in the area of el Puente Negro (the Black Bridge), which is known as a crossing place for entering the United States. In the video, a Border Patrol agent struggles with two individuals and then shoots across the river into Mexican territory, hitting and killing Sergio.
Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz of Juarez and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have condemned the killing. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the death “extremely regrettable,” while assuring the public that the relationship between the United States and Mexico would remain “strong.”
Amnesty International has called for a “transparent investigation” of the incident, as well as an “urgent review by the Department of Homeland Security of the use of force by Border Patrol.”
Community members on both sides of the border have held vigils and protests, demanding justice for Hernandez Guereca and his family.
Meanwhile, on the Internet, hate-filled anti-Mexican rhetoric fills blogs and news sites.
From the beginning, reports were contradictory. U.S. officials described Hernandez Guereca as a “smuggler” who helped undocumented immigrants cross the border. His mother, Guadalupe Guereca, remembered her son as a young man who wanted to be a soldier or police officer, not a troublemaker. She called him the “hope of the family.”
“I do not want money,” Jesus Librado Hernandez told reporters a few days after the killing of his teenage son. “My wish is that justice be done.”
That is my wish, too.
I wish for justice rather than fear.
I wish for justice rather than hatred.
I wish for justice rather than the increasingly violent enforcement of the U.S.- Mexico border.
I wish for justice rather than a broken U.S. immigration policy.
And I wish that Hernandez Guereca will be the last person who dies a violent death on our border.
Yolanda Chávez Leyva is a historian specializing in Mexican American and border histories. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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