Border Patrol Victims Network, Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez Vigil

PICS FROM LAST NIGHT’S VIGIL FOR JOSE ANTONIO ELENA RODRIGUEZ. Araceli Rodriguez, Jose Antonio’s mom, showed up by herself as other family members were unable to attend. Six came from “el otro lado” in solidarity with Araceli to enjoy champurado and sweet bread, a Christmas posada in Feb. Mark and Ana Maria played the panpipes. A migrant joined us briefly carrying his bedroll and then he disappeared into the night facing an uncertain future. Araceli commented on the frustration of the Border Patrol agent’s trial being continually delayed, and how only recently she was shown the clothes her son was wearing when he died, something she could barely stand to bear.

Border shooting of Mexican teen heads to Supreme Court

Sergio Hernandez died at 15, shot dead by policeman Jesus Mesa. His would have been a story of American violence both tragic and banal if the victim had not been in Mexico and the shooter in the US.

The thorny legal question raised by the cross-border homicide heads to the US Supreme Court on Tuesday.

At issue is whether the teen’s family has the constitutional right to sue Mesa, a Border Patrol agent, in US courts.

The Supreme Court takes up the case amid a deeply divisive national debate on President Donald Trump’s vow to build a US wall on the border with Mexico to stem illegal immigration.

The shooting occurred June 7, 2010. Hernandez was playing around with three friends in the dry riverbed of the Rio Grande that separates the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez from its Texan neighbor El Paso.

The four friends were racing up the concrete embankment to touch the barbed-wire fence on the US side, and racing back down. The unmarked border line runs through the middle of the culvert.

Their game bothered Mesa, who was patrolling the area on bicycle. He shot Hernandez in the head, and the teen died just 60 feet (18 meters) from the border on Mexican soil.

The Border Patrol agent later explained that Hernandez and his friends had refused to obey his order to stop the game and had thrown rocks at him.

Mesa left the scene without helping his victim, accompanied by colleagues who had come to give him back-up.

According to the family of the victim, the teen was shot while unarmed and presented no danger.

 Angry Mexico 

The case sparked protests in Ciudad Juarez and a diplomatic mini-crisis between the neighboring countries, with Mexico’s then-president Felipe Calderon demanding a “profound and impartial” investigation by the Obama administration.

The previous week, another Mexican teenager, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, had died after being beaten and shocked with a Taser by border police at the southwest crossing between Tijuana and the US city of San Diego.

It was in this context of repeated US official violence against Mexican nationals at the border that the parents of Hernandez decided to sue Mesa, accusing him of violating the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, which bars unjustified deadly force.

Their lawsuit for unlawful use of lethal force also cites the Fifth Amendment, which among other provisions says that a life cannot be taken without the “due process of law.”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ultimately upheld a decision to dismiss the case, stating that US courts had no jurisdiction since the victim was Mexican and died in Mexico.

 ‘Intolerable’ 

In the appeal, the New Orleans court decided that the complaint of unlawful use of lethal force could not be applied.

Rights group Amnesty International called the ruling “intolerable” and “in violation of basic principles of international law.”

According to Bob Hilliard, an attorney with Hilliard, Munoz, & Gonzales, the firm representing the Hernandez family before the Supreme Court, US border patrols have fatally shot at least eight Mexicans between 2006 and 2016 in cross-border incidents.

“Innocent Mexican nationals have been murdered with no ability to speak through the court system to the person who committed a crime,” he said.

His partner, Jose Luis Munoz, pointed out the case has broad implications.

“Beyond politics, this case is about humanity,” he told AFP.

“Human worth is not determined by place of birth and justice is not determined by where a life ends — especially a young life cut short when a US law enforcement agent, standing inside the US and governed by this country’s constitutional constraints, pulls the trigger.”

After lengthy hesitation, the Supreme Court decided last October to hear the case, which has gathered numerous arguments in support of the parties.

The US federal government is backing Mesa, warning that authorization of such lawsuits could “significantly disrupt the ability of the political branches to respond to foreign situations involving” US national interests.

The Mexican government has warned that blocking the case could damage US-Mexican relations.

“Applying US law in this case would not interfere with operations of the Mexican government within Mexico,” it said in a court brief.

“On the contrary, providing an adequate and effective remedy would show appropriate respect for Mexico’s sovereignty on its own territory and for the rights of its nationals.”

Friends and relatives … Please join us for a lunch of tamales and beans this coming Saturday, May 4th at the Southside Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall at 317 W. 23rd St. Tucson, AZ for a Border Lunch and Art Sale.

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Browse our selection of woven handbags from Colombia, get one of the many baskets created by our Wounan artisans (indigenous tribe from the areas of panama and Colombia), and buy some of the paintings of our amazing Colombian artist and activist Ana Maria Vasquez.

Your presence and solidarity will help us achieve our goals:

To support education programs for the indigenous people of Jaque, Panama.

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Invitation to 6th Annual Yanama

Invitation to 6th Yanama

click to view invite (PDF)

Riohacha , Guajira 21 de Marzo de 2010

Compañer@s:

Via CAROL MOSLEY (USA)

Receive this brotherly/sisterly greeting from the Wayuu community of Bahia Portete.

This event commemorates the anniversary of the Sixth year of the massacre of our community that constitutes the genocide against our town, which was the greatest affront to our culture in all our history, because it touched those most sacred in our community: the women and the children.

Our Wayúu community of Bahia Portete will host “SIXTH YANAMA, LAPÛU SAU^U WOUNMAIN, DREAM OF OUR TERRITORY, FOLLOWING STEP BY STEP the TRACKS TO LOOK FOR the TRUTH AND JUSTICE, united by the civil resistance of the indigenous towns, weaving day to day and committed to the memory and the dreams of future generations for our return.

In Bahia Portete, Alta Guajira – Colombia, during days 15 to the 20 of April of 2010, we extend this very special invitation. For the Wayúu community it is important to have your support and solidarity and we count on your presence, as regional delegates, national and international, in this most significant Commemoration as an indigenous community.

With gratitude,

DEBORA BARROS FINCE

Organizadora del evento | Email: wayuumunsurat@yahoo.com | Celular: 3002773822-3102388988

TELEMINA BARROS C.

Rte. AKOSHIJIRRAWA | Email mujertejiendopaz@yahoo.es | Celular: 3004229793

In USA call: Bridges Across Borders

Email: office@bridgesacrossborders.org | (352) 485-2594

PAULA’S STORY

PAULA FLOREZ

Paula first came under our wings at our first Summer Youth Leadership Gathering in Jaque, Darien, Panama. She was a real dynamo of about 16 years old with a vibrant personality. Right away, she took on helping us to coordinate the camp activities.

She was a Colombian refugee who had crossed the border with her family after the massacre in Jurado, Choco’. Life isn’t easy as an externally displaced person in Panama. Since it is assumed that you will eventually return to your home country, you have few rights. It was hard for her father to work to support the family and, since there was no high school in Jaque even for the Panamanian youth, there was no way her to even hope of completing her education in Panama City. The fate of most girls in her position was to find a guy (who would hopefully marry you) and start having babies. But Paula had dreams that were larger than that. She wanted to finish high school and maybe even go to college to study Psychology so she could help other victims of massacres to deal with their post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We were determined to help her have that chance.

Shortly before Christmas of that same year, we got word that there would be a forced repatriation of the refugees, sending them back to Jurado despite the lack of guaranteed security. We knew the authorities had been coercing people to go back and, in fact, we brought a video camera down for the camp and held a workshop for a few budding photographers who interviewed the refugees asking who wanted to return voluntarily and who was being sent under duress. When we got the word that Panama was sending refugees back, we quickly formed a witnessing group and headed south. As it turned out, only about half of those scheduled to go actually went, once we were able to prove with our documentation that they had been coerced and lied to. Paula’s family had decided to leave, since living in Jaque as a refugee was so difficult. Even if they still had to fear the possibility of another paramilitary attack, at least the father could plant his crops and provide food for his family. (click here for article on Repatriation)

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We knew we had to find a way to get Paula through high school. After seeking schools in Bogota to no avail, we found a place in the mountains up from the city and a family with whom she could stay. It wasn’t easy on her. It was cold in the mountains and she was used to the warmth of the Pacific coastal jungle. And there were not black people in the mountains either, while Choco’ was inhabited by indigenous and African Descendents.

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But she did it! She joined the soccer team and a Traditional Dance group (traditional Latin dances, not traditional Chocoan dances) and made the most of her situation. She got her high school degree! And, no baby or early marriage as an escape from her difficulties.

After graduation she wanted to do a little traveling to some other communities that had suffered at the hands of armed actors in the decades long civil war. She was thinking to maybe go to Cacarica, a “peace community” that had suffered its own massacre and declared that no armed actors are welcomed there. It should be noted here that the “good guys” are the ones without weapons. Local people often find themselves caught between the battling actors of guerillas, paramilitary and even the Colombian military itself. They are frequently accused of being drug dealers as justification for their demise, when the real benefit of corruption is gotten by the armed actors themselves. The local population loses on all fronts; loss of loved ones, loss of land and loss of personal and familial security.

I decided to take a few of “my girls” with me to the Yanama (gathering) of the Wayuu, who each year called for an international accompaniment to their ancestral coastal desert lands of Bahia Portete in La Guajira region, from which they are exiled since the massacre there in 2004. So Adriana, Paula, and another “Chocana” from Jurado, Dalicia joined me as witnesses. It was a powerful experience for all of us, with the girls from Choco’ sharing their stories of the massacre in their coastal jungle community with these indigenous Wayuu coastal desert dwellers. Paula decide the stay there after the Yanama and remained for another year.

She has recently returned to Jurado, but has grown well beyond the ability to reside in a sedentary existence that is typical of her jungle community. She is ready to move into the next phase of her desire to be of service to humanity and has expressed that she is headed to Bogota in an attempt to further her studies and begin university. We want to help her with the means to be of service. If you want to help, too, let us know. The world can certainly use a Paula to assist others who have known the trauma of violence in their world.