There is outrage in Mexico over the second killing of an unarmed Mexican citizen, in the space of a little more than a week, by the U.S. Border Patrol. This time, there are also accusations that a member of the patrol fired into Mexico to shoot a minor.

The new killing took place on Monday at about 7 P.M. in Ciudad Juarez, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, across the border from El Paso, Texas. Various accounts in the U.S. and Mexican media say that the incident began with some people on the Juarez side of the Rio Grande (called Rio Bravo by Mexicans), next to a bridge that connects Juarez with El Paso, throwing stones at Border Patrol agents on the El Paso side. According to Mexican sources, at least one Border Patrol agent fired across the river into Mexico and shot dead 15 year old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Güereca, with a bullet in the eye. The teenager’s friends and family have told the press that he was with a group of friends and was not involved in the stone-throwing incident.   

Initially some sources claimed that the youth was on the U.S. side. But El Universal, a Mexico City daily, posted a video on its website which clearly shows a Border Patrol agent firing across the river into Mexico. Forensic medical authorities of the State of Chihuahua make the accusation that the Border Patrol agents actually crossed the river and killed the youth on the Mexican side, with a shot to the face at very close range.  

Subsequently, there was an effort, according to various sources, by Border Patrol agents to cross to the Mexican side to “gather evidence”, but Mexican police, either from local police forces or from Mexico’s Federal Judicial Police but not the military, pointed their guns at the U.S. agents and forced them back. No shooting took place between the U.S. Border Patrol and the Mexican police officers, but the confrontation was said to have been very tense.

On May 28, Anastasio Hernandez (no known relation), 32, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who had lived and worked in the U.S. since he was 14 years old, died after being struck and tasered by Border Patrol agents just at the San Ysidro crossing point between California and the Mexican city of Tijuana. Evidently Mr. Hernandez struggled with Border Patrol agents as they were in the process of deporting him. The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s office has declared that the killing a homicide, and there is said to be an FBI investigation.

The Mexican foreign ministry has protested both incidents and demanded punishment of the Border Patrol agents involved, pointing out in the case of Sergio Hernandez that a stone-throwing incident does not justify opening fire with live ammunition and killing a minor. Mexico also complains of increased physical attacks against its citizens within the United States. The White House has expressed concern and called for a full investigation.

The border region has been the focus of intense anti-immigrant and anti-Mexican agitation on the U.S. side. The conservative government of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been using heavy-handed military tactics to deal with a rampaging drug trafficking war, in which Juarez is a key battleground. The Obama administration has followed up a Bush administration program, called the “Merida Initiative” to supply Mexican police and army units with massive amounts of weaponry. The left and human rights organizations in Mexico have denounced both the Mexican and U.S. governments for this, pointing to a vast increase in human rights violations that have followed Calderon’s mobilization of the army to fight the drug gangs.  Everybody in Mexico, both government and opposition, agrees that the United States contributes to the drug war in Mexico in two ways: By the vast demand for illegal drugs in this country, without which the drug cartels would have no market or income, and by the ease with which Mexican criminals can purchase high powered arms in the United States due to our lax gun laws, leading to a situation in which criminal gangs often out-gun Mexican police forces. There are said to be as many as 10,000 gun shops in the United States along the border with Mexico. The power of the gun lobby has so far prevented the U.S. government from doing anything about this.  

The ultra-right, in the United States, citing the drug war in Mexico and the recent killing of a U.S. rancher by persons unknown, is demanding that the U.S. Mexico border be “sealed” and no more documented or undocumented immigrants be admitted from Mexico. Anybody who has actually seen the border realizes that this is physically impossible, and so it is a demagogic demand designed to stave off immigration reform and contribute to the scapegoating of Latinos and immigrants for our current economic troubles, while portraying the Obama administration as being weak on national security.  

President Obama recently announced he will be sending 1,200 National Guard troops to the border.


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.