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When photographs emerged of U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback chasing migrants on the southern border, President Biden vowed to be held to account.
“I promise you: these people will pay,” he said. “They will be investigated. There will be consequences.”
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the border patrol, has promised an investigation and placed the officers on administrative duty.
Andrea Guerrero is skeptical.
âUnfortunately, the Customs and Border Protection accountability system, which is the parent agency of border patrol, [is] broken up, which leads to impunity, âsaid Guerrero, executive director of Alliance San Diego, a nonprofit social justice organization that provides services to immigrants.
Alliance San Diego represents the family of Anastasio HernÃ¡ndez Rojas, whose beatings and death at the hands of US border officials in 2010 were deemed homicide. The Justice Department refused to press charges against the officers in his death. The alliance is now helping the family bring the case to an international tribunal called the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and it submitted a new testimony in February.
âNo agent has ever been held accountable, no agent has ever lost a day’s work,â Guerrero said in an interview with NPR’s Ari Shapiro. “No agent has ever been prosecuted. No apology was offered to the family [of HernÃ¡ndez Rojas], and that is simply unacceptable. … As far as we know, no one has suffered any repercussions. “
On the remedies available against border officials
There are very few mechanisms, right? One is to file complaints with the federal government. These are not going anywhere. The other is to try to get into the justice system using a constitutional claim. And the other is to turn to local police departments and lay charges against officers for their actions when they are not on duty. So, for example, in Arizona there are currently several officers facing sexual assault charges due to local law enforcement.
Why Guerrero’s group is suing the HernÃ¡ndez Rojas case
The Border Patrol is part of CBP, the country’s largest law enforcement agency. It has more resources, more agents, more jurisdiction and more power than any other law enforcement agency in the country. And the case of Anastasio is an opportunity for us to bring all this to light in an international trial – to judge the impunity of American agents at the border.
On the nature of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
This is not a criminal tribunal – it is an international human rights tribunal, and it is unique in its role and ability to adjudicate whether the United States has violated its obligations in international treaties to protect human rights. And we have presented a very solid case the way he did it – not just in Anastasio’s murder, but in cover-up. And that’s what really concerns us in this case and in all the others. And, you know, all the way up to last week with the Haitian migrants.
When President Biden says they will pay and the secretary [of Homeland Security Alejandro] Mayorkas says we know how to maintain integrity in an investigation, my answer is: you never have. You, the US government, have never maintained the integrity of an investigation. And structurally, you are not configured to do that, because you are asking an entity of the agency itself to investigate the agents. And that’s not what we expect from 21st century policing standards. We expect an external and independent investigation which must come from a different entity – in this case, the Department of Justice.
Patrick Jarenwattananon adapted this interview for the web.