Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was 16-years-old when he was killed by Border Patrol agent Lonnie Ray Swartz on Oct. 10, 2012. Rodriguez wasn’t committing a crime when Swartz unloaded his weapon. He wasn’t even in the United States when it happened.
The latest edition of the New York Time Magazine features a shocking profile on Rodriguez’s tragic death and how his murder is very representative of how messed up the Border Patrol truly is. The night Rodriguez was killed, two smugglers were trying to jump the fence back to Mexico after dropping off their cargo somewhere in Nogales, Ariz. Agents of the Nogales Police Department and the local Border Patrol station were standing around watching these two men escape when Lonnie Ray Swartz pulled up to the fence, got out of his car, and fired at Rodriguez at least 15 times through the fence. According to the autopsy report, Rodriguez was hit by 10 bullets. He was shot in the back. Swartz reported that Rodriguez was throwing rocks at him from Mexico. The investigation dismissed this claim.
Despite the very damning evidence that Swartz straight up murdered Rodriguez for no apparent reason, nothing happened to him. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, the agency in charge of these types of investigations, did nothing.
It wasn’t until Raner Collins — Chief U.S. District Judge of the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Arizona — ordered that Lonnie Ray Swartz’s identity be revealed that any charges against the agent were brought. On Sept. 24, 2015, nearly three years after Rodriguez’s death, Swartz was charged with second-degree murder.
This was the first time ever that a Border Patrol Agent was charged for killing a Mexican citizen on the other side of the fence. If anything, Rodriguez’s murder shone a light on just how far the Border Patrol goes to protect their own. You can read more about this tragic incident and how screwed up the Border Patrol really is here. And for good measure, you should also read the Texas Observer’s shocking expose of the agency’s corruption.
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Since Hurricane Irma and then its more vicious successor, Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico hasn’t had a moment of peace. Two years since those devastating hurricanes came the recovery period— and it seemed that with all the progress that was made, there was a suspicious underlying. We knew that there were funds being withheld at the government level from the Trump Administration, but then came news of corruption from the local level. Puerto Rico was once again in turmoil, this time with its lawmakers. Then once the fraud was rooted out (thanks to the people who demanded it) came the earthquakes. Now, Puerto Rico is once again in a period of unsettledness.
Last summer, Ricardo Rosselló resigned from his role as governor of Puerto Rico after people on the island demanded it. While it was revealed that Rosselló had been involved in inappropriate chats, he was also involved in possible corruption. The Department of Justice has acquired an independent prosecutor to investigate not just Rosselló but several people he chatted with via the Telegram app. At the center of this investigation is not to disclose what was said — because we do know that information, and we’ll get to that later — but instead to discover possible illegalities that Rosselló and others committed while in office.
One of the concerns is whether Rosselló conducted illegal transactions that could be “conflicts of interest and violations of the law,” NBC reports.
“They examined the contents of the group chat, and as part of the investigation, they issued 45 citations to multiple witnesses and over 60 subpoenas to secure documents and information,” DOJ Secretary Denisse Longo Quiñones said in her statement. “In the course of these appointments, participants were asked to show up and deliver their cellphones for registration.” She added, “The Department of Justice has fully complied with its responsibility to complete a preliminary investigation that allows the Office of Independent Special Prosecutors to use its own criteria to determine whether they will accept the recommendation.”
While the Department of Justice has requested an investigation, now it’s up to the Office of Independent Special Prosecutors to present the charges against Rosselló and possibly others if they find illegal actions.
As of now, Rosselló is in the clear. It is only after the investigation is concluded will the public know for sure if Rosselló was part of any sort of corruption or if the chats that were disclosed just showed their inappropriateness.
To recap, Rosselló’s words were more than just wrong. They were simply appalling. We expect this sort of language from President Donald Trump, but not anyone else.
In Rosselló’s chat concerning San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Christian Sobrino Vega, then Puerto Rico’s chief fiscal officer, said: “I am salivating to shoot her.” Rosselló responded by saying, “You’d be doing me a grand favor.”
Rosselló also said that Yulín Cruz was “off her meds” after she expressed interest in running for governor. “Either that, or she’s a tremendous HP,” which is an acronym in Spanish that means “son/daughter of a bitch.”
Sobrino Vega also went on to disrespect singer Ricky Martin. “Nothing says patriarchal oppression like Ricky Martin,” Sobrino Vega wrote in the group chat. “Ricky Martin is such a male chauvinist that he f—- men because women don’t measure up. Pure patriarchy.”
But the issue here is not so much what Rosselló said but rather if he misused funds.
With so much talk about how Trump was withholding funds (he still is by the way), the money that was being made available could have been used in other places and not where it was needed the most. The Center for Investigative Journalism disclosed that some federal money could have been used to conduct partisan work. The investigation shows that Rosselló misused federal funds for his own purposes instead of distributing it in areas that desperately needed it. The investigation will find out if that conduct was done so legally or illegally.
Remember their names: Maudy Constanza and Hanz Morales. They are two Guatemalans who are suing the United States to keep their family together (they have two daughters who are with Constanza in the United States and one son, aged 9, who was returned to Mexico with Morales).
The recent crackdown on undocumented migrants and refugees under the Trump administration has produced all sorts of stories of broken homes, crushed dreams and near impossible survival. Chief among the many controversial steps that the government has taken in the last two years is the set of policies and transnational deals that have led many undocumented migrants to deportation.
The influx of migrants and asylum seekers into the United States comes from all over the world, and people fleeing dangerous situations in places as far as the Middle East or Africa use the southern border as an entry point into the US. However, the spotlight is usually placed on people of Latin American origin, mainly from Mexico and Central American countries that have long faced sectarian violence, social unrest, gangs and armed conflicts that, oftentimes, can be led back to what some critics claim is United States interventionism. Whatever the case is, the truth is that the American continent is experiencing a humanitarian crisis and governments will need to cooperate to ease human suffering and make asylum seeking processes more bearable.
Most people whose families have been separated by the United States federal government remain silent in their powerlessness. After all, who would legally fight one of the most powerful countries in the world, right? Well, the answer lies in a Guatemalan couple that is actually suing the federal government in an effort to keep the family together.
Maudy Constanza is an asylum seeker living in Massachusetts, her partner and son were ordered to remain in Mexico so they are suing.
The lawsuit claims that Trump’s asylum policy violates constitutional due process and does not guarantee equal rights. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts in federal court in Boston last week.
The suit reads: “United States law protects asylum seekers like Ms. Constanza, Mr. Morales, and their children. The law forbids sending people to countries where they will be persecuted or tortured, and provides migrants with an opportunity to see an immigration judge before they may be sent to a place where they fear such persecution or torture.”
We have to remember that Guatemala lives unprecedented levels of violence and that the increasing flow of Central American migrants to Mexico has made them vulnerable as many individuals in the host country have perpetrated acts of violence and racism.
Hanz Morales, Constanza’s partner, was shot four times in his home country of Guatemala, where criminality indexes are surging.
Guatemala is definitely not a safe place for Hanz Morales, and he fears for his life. The couple fled to Mexico with their three young children. They separated before crossing the United States border in July 2019. The Boston Globe details the ordeal that they escaped: “Hanz was a successful small business owner in a town 100 miles or so outside Guatemala City. Last year he witnessed a violent crime, during which he was shot. The family spent a year in hiding trying to evade the individuals who shot him, until they decided to move to the United States and seek asylum.” The rule of law not always holds true in Guatemala and other Latin American countries, so it was flee or die for the family.
Constanza and her two daughters were allowed to stay in the United States, Morales and their 9-year-old son were sent back to Mexico, where unofficial refugee camps are dangerous and unsanitary.
Morales and his son are among the approximately 50,000 individuals from Spanish-speaking countries that have been sent to Mexico to wait out their migration court process. This puts them in an extremely vulnerable situation and an economy of corrupt officials and lawyers, who take advantage of them, has sprouted in cities such as Reynosa and Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas.
As Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, told The Boston Globe: “In Matamoros, we now have what’s been called the worst refugee camp in the world.”
As the Associated Press reports, Morales and his son have experienced a hell on Earth while waiting in Mexico: “Morales and his son have survived an attempted kidnapping, struggled to find food and rarely leave their home because of the violent and dangerous conditions near the border, according to the ACLU. The organization wants a federal judge to declare the asylum policy unlawful and allow Morales and his son to await the outcome of their case in the U.S. with the rest of their family.” The ACLU has started similar processes in the Californian cities of San Diego and San Francisco.
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