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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It seems like every day we hear another tragic story about a family being denied entry to the US, or a archer dying with his daughter as they attempt to cross the Rio Grande. The news coming from the US-Mexico border is largely framed in Trump’s quest to literally seal it off from the rest of the world.
What we lose in that narrative are the stories that paint the truly disturbing picture of US complacency in the crimes that are being perpetrated against the people we are sending back to Mexico as they await their court dates. Many of these people are fleeing extreme violence and poverty in their native countries and yet the US is forcing entire families to wait in what they themselves call “no-go zones” — areas that are so dangerous the US advises it’s own citizens to avoid all travel to.
Trump’s ‘Migrant Protection Protocols’ – commonly known as ‘Remain in Mexico’ – is jeopardizing people’s lives.
According to a report by VICE News, a man and his family were kidnapped hours after being turned back to Mexico.
After being turned away by US immigration officials, under the guise of Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy, a man identified as David says cartel members surrounded David and a dozen other migrants at a bus station. The exact same bus station the US border patrol had just dropped them off at.
David is among the estimated 42,000 asylum seekers who’ve been returned to Mexico in recent months under President Trump’s new asylum policies. The Trump administration calls the policy “Migrant Protection Protocols,” but far from offering protection, the policy has led to a brutal wave of kidnappings in some of Mexico’s most dangerous border cities.
“They are sending them to a place that is too dangerous,” Laura, David’s sister, told VICE News. “Why are they doing this? Why, if Mexico is a place that is so dangerous?”
The man and his child were forced into trucks and taken away.
David told VICE News that he and another dozen or so asylum seekers who had been returned that day to Mexico arrived at the bus station in Nuevo Laredo, a group of 20 men were already waiting for them. Immediately, the men forced David, his child, and the other migrants into trucks, as an immigration official looked their way but did nothing.
And according to “David,” an immigration official looked their way and did nothing to help.
David said the kidnappers took his few belongings, including the paperwork U.S. Customs and Border Protection had given him. Without it, he and his child can’t enter the U.S. to attend their hearing in December.
The kidnappers took a dozen pictures of each of the migrants who were being held, and they took notes on everyone — their full names, where they were from, their family members. The cartel was also holding at least 20 other men, plus dozens of children and women, who “were treated like pieces of meat,” David said.
They separated the women from the men, and beat any of the men who turned to look. David said one man tried to escape and they shot him dead.
The cartels know these are some of the most vulnerable people and they’re ready to make money off their suffering.
Powerful criminal organizations have seized on Trump’s changes, targeting asylum seekers with family in the U.S. by holding them hostage until their relatives come up with thousands of dollars to pay for their release.
And the US government is letting it happen.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, across from El Paso, Texas, more than 6,000 people are registered as waiting in line just to receive court dates. Many are at shelters run by charities where small children have been sleeping for months on exercise mats. Shelters have been attacked by gunmen, and migrants have been kidnapped by human traffickers as they wait for their names to be called by the U.S. Often, only 10 to 20 families a day are interviewed.
At a migrant camp on the Mexico side of the Gateway International Bridge, which links Matamoros to Brownsville, Texas, migrants don’t have access to showers and resort to bathing in the Rio Grande River, said Dani Marrero Hi, an outreach coordinator at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Earlier this week, a 17-year-old girl had to be rescued after she couldn’t swim against the current, she said.
The Hispanic Caucus wasn’t mincing words, saying they completely blame the administration for this tragedy.
Several non profit organizations and members of Congress have admonished the administration for acting without care for any of these people’s lives and safety.
Yet a recent Supreme Court ruling empowers Trump to take his cruel ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy even further.
The decision allows the Trump administration to enforce a new rule sharply limiting who can apply for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. While a legal challenge proceeds, Central Americans who cross through Mexico won’t be able to claim refugee status in the U.S. unless they previously applied for protection from one of the countries they passed through.
After the court decision was announced, the White House issued a statement saying it allowed the administration to make “needed fixes to the broken asylum system,” adding, “This greatly helps build on the progress we’ve made addressing the crisis at our southern border and will ultimately make American communities safer.”
The latest blow to people fleeing violence and political unrest arrives amid President Donald Trump’s push to drive down border crossings. Those numbers have already plunged after he persuaded Mexico under threat of tariffs to send more than 25,000 national guard troops to its borders and to receive tens of thousands of asylum seekers awaiting court hearings in the U.S.
A California federal judge has restored a nationwide injunction on Monday, effectively blocking the Trump administration from denying asylum to migrants who have not first applied for refuge in a “third country” they’ve traveled through. This is just the latest twist in an ongoing legal battle that started back in July when both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice announced the measure. The ban would have basically ended asylum for individuals whose only option is to travel upward through Mexico and other Latin American countries.
San Francisco-based U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar had previously issued a nationwide injunction blocking the rule. The ruling was then upheld last month by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals who narrowed the ban only border states within its jurisdiction, California and Arizona. The question was then sent back to Tigar. On Monday, he ruled it should apply across the entire U.S. border, pending a trial on the legality of the Trump administration ban.
“The question now before the court is whether those harms can be addressed by any relief short of a nationwide injunction. The answer is that they cannot,” Tigar in his ruling. The injunction now in effect is deeply flawed and should be stayed pending appeal and pending any further proceedings in this Court.
The ban is a major part of President Trump’s anti-immigration policy and a key issue of his reelection campaign.
The reinstatement of the injunction is another blow to the Trump administration that has made multiple attempts to lower the number of asylum seekers at the southern border. Mexico deployed more than 5,000 troops to their southern border back in June after President Trump threatened to place tariffs on Mexican imports if the country didn’t help deter the number of Central American migrants passing through.
To this point, the deployment of troops seems to have had some effect on the flow of immigration as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol announced last week that the number of border apprehensions dropped by more than 56 percent since peaking back in May at 144,255.
President Trump told reporters on Monday that he didn’t agree with the judges ruling. “I think it’s very unfair that he does that,” Trump told reporters. “I don’t think it should be allowed.”
“Immigration and border security policy cannot be run by any single district court judge who decides to issue a nationwide injunction,” the White House said in a statement. “This ruling is a gift to human smugglers and traffickers and undermines the rule of law. We previously asked the Supreme Court to set aside the district court’s injunction in its entirety, our request remains pending with the Court, and we look forward to it acting on our request.”
Many immigration and legal unions are celebrating the ruling who see the judges decision as a huge win for asylum seekers.
When the rule was announced back in July it quickly drew legal challenges from several immigrant-rights groups which accused the Trump administration of imposing a virtual asylum ban. They also saw the rule as setting a dangerous precedent and in return hurting the safety and security of migrants seeking safety in the U.S.
“The court recognized there is grave danger facing asylum-seekers along the entire stretch of the southern border.” Lee Gelernt, an American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued the case, said in a statement.
Acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan didn’t agree with the ruling as he told reporters that he was “frustrated” and described it as a result of “unprecedented judicial activism.” “It’s very very frustrating but we’re going to keep going. We’ll continue to work within the current legal framework address this,” Morgan said at the White House on Monday morning.
Melissa Crow, an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center, said in a statement that while Tigar’s ruling is a step in the right direction there still remain many hurdles for asylum seekers.
“This ruling levels the playing field for all the vulnerable individuals and families seeking refuge in the United States. With this decision, regardless of where they cross the border, these people should be able to seek asylum. Sadly, while this ruling removes a major hurdle, far too many obstacles remain, as this administration’s war on asylum-seekers appears to know no bounds.”