Residents of the border town
of Redford, Texas, mourned yesterday the two-year anniversary of the fatal
shooting of Esequiel Hernandez by US Marines on anti-drug patrol.
Hernandez was 18 at the time of his death, and was out herding the family
sheep when he was tracked and killed by a camouflaged, four-marine patrol
on the lookout for drug smugglers and illegal aliens. Hernandez was
carrying an old .22 rifle that he used to scare off snakes and other predators.
The killing was the first of an American citizen by an active duty soldier.
Rev. Mel LaFolette, a resident
of Redford, and a member of a delegation that visited Washington after
the shooting in 1997, told the Week Online, "The community is still outraged
at what happened. Even though there's been a payment of money by
the government, no one believes that justice has been done."
Rev. LaFolette believes "it's
both a complete irresponsibility and recklessness at the level of administration
and poor training, but I believe the individuals also have some responsibility
for what happened. There's plenty of guilt to go around."
Some observers believe the
Marines acted according to their training, but were deployed on a type
of mission -- civilian law enforcement -- for which the military is wholly
unsuited, causing them to make a complete misreading of the situation,
leading to the tragedy.
Residents are also angered
by the way the Border Patrol characterized their community to the Marine
patrollers -- full of narcotraffickers, a hostile entity, be suspicious
of everybody. "We were slandered by the Border Patrol," said LaFolette.
Nevertheless, the Border Patrol has made "no apology for the calumniation
of the people of Redford."
LaFolette remarked that "everybody
on the border, including tourists, fits the [Border Patrol's] description
of a drug trafficker," explaining, "Any tourist with a backpack first the
description. A woman with a plastic bag of groceries fits the description."
We've been told, but have
not confirmed, that a demonstration will take place this Saturday (5/22),
noon, in the park straddling El Paso and its sister city across the border,
Juarez, Mexico. To confirm, and for information, call the Immigration
Law Enforcement Monitoring Project (ILEMP) El Paso office at (915) 577-0724.
The following is a statement
from the American Friends Service Committee (of which ILEMP is a project),
followed by an excerpt from ILEMP director Maria Jimenez's comments to
In-Motion magazine, the statement of Rep. James Traficant (D-OH) supporting
legislation he introduced that would dramatically increase the level of
militarization of the border, and links to extensive background information
on the Hernandez tragedy and an online photo gallery in memory of Esequiel
Hernandez and the tragedy.
STATEMENT OF THE AMERICAN
FRIENDS SERVICE COMMITTEE
Today, the American
Friends Service Committee remembers Esequiel Hernandez, Jr. of Redford,
Texas. On this day two years ago, Hernandez, an 18 year old goatherd,
was shot and killed in his own field by a US Marine working on a drug surveillance
Outcry from the Redford
community and from sympathetic voices nationwide led to a Pentagon statement
earlier this year that the use of ground troops for armed, covert anti-drug
efforts would be suspended. However, the AFSC remains very concerned
that such operations could easily resume without the knowledge of the communities
in which they take place. There is no legal bar to doing so, and
no external oversight policy exists to inform the public about such activities.
The operations are only identified after something goes wrong -- like the
Despite the obvious reluctance
of the Pentagon to continue such operations, Rep. James Traficant of Ohio
has reintroduced a bill this year that would ease the way for military
troops to help patrol the border. He claims such aid is "desperately
needed" to stem the wave of drugs into the US.
AFSC is also concerned about
the continued partnership of the military, the Border Patrol, and local
law enforcement (including the sharing of equipment, intelligence, and
training) in the name of drug enforcement. This collusion contributes
to the overall militarization of border communities, endangering and infringing
on the civil and human rights of all members of the community.
EXCERPT FROM MARIA JIMENEZ
INTERVIEW IN IN-MOTION MAGAZINE
the problem of the national perception of viewing the border as a war zone
and immigrants as enemies and subsequently border communities -- you can
conclude when you have military patrols in your town that somehow somebody
thought you were the enemies of this country -- that was why we were losing.
The Esequiel Hernandez case
highlighted the very serious nature of how we were defining our border
politics with respect to, in this particular case, the drug issue.
Redford had not seen an arrest of a drug trafficker in ten years according
to the DEA (federal Drug Enforcement Administration).
Again it's because of these
perceptions that people have in the interior of the country. There's
drugs in Washington DC, why don't they put covert military operations in
Washington, DC? The border is viewed as a war zone, where evil enters,
as if economic problems ended and began at the border. Particularly
the populations at the border are seen as suspect.
I remember the words of Enrique
Madrid, one of the residents of Redford who went to Washington, when he
said, "My grandfather was one of the original founders of Redford".
He had the charter that his grandfather had for the land at Redford.
Generations grew up in Redford. He served his country in the military.
In many different ways they built the community. Now all of a sudden
there are covert operations, "My God we suddenly realized we were an enemy."
The perception is that there
are expendable populations in terms of what we would call democratic institutions.
With all its sophistication, the military in the training of these Marines
could not tell the difference between the good guy and the bad guy, so
to speak. This shepherd fit the profile of a drug-runner. So
if he fit the profile of a drug-runner then it means everybody on the border
fits the profile of a drug-runner. There are stereotypic views that
are concretized into policy and institutionalized.
STATEMENT OF REP. JAMES A.
in the House of Representatives
TUESDAY, MARCH 2, 1999
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of legislation I introduced on February
8, 1999, which would authorize the deployment of US troops to assist law
enforcement in patrolling US borders. I urge all Members to cosponsor
this important piece of legislation.
Our current program to stop
drugs from coming into America is a joke. Eighty percent of the cocaine
and heroin smuggled into America is transited across the US-Mexico border.
We are losing the war on drugs. If hundreds of thousands of US soldiers
can be sent all over the world to protect other countries, certainly a
few thousand can be redeployed here in the US to help protect America from
the scourge of drugs.
My bill, H.R. 628, authorizes
the Department of Defense to assign US troops to assist federal law enforcement
in monitoring and patrolling US borders, and inspecting cargo, vehicles
and aircraft at points of entry into the US Under the bill such assistance
could be provided only at the express request of the US Attorney General
or Secretary of the Treasury. The bill also mandates special law
enforcement training for troops deployed to border areas, requires all
US troops patrolling the border to be accompanied by federal law enforcement
agents, bars soldiers from making arrests, and requires the federal government
to notify state and local government officials of any deployment of US
troops. Last year the House overwhelmingly approved a similar provision
that I sponsored as an amendment to the FY 1999 DoD bill. The amendment,
however, was dropped during a House-Senate conference.
Make no mistake about it,
the Border Patrol, INS and Customs Service desperately need the help our
military could provide. For example, only three out of every 100
trucks coming into the US from Mexico are inspected. In addition,
recent news reports reveal that the INS is considering releasing thousands
of dangerous illegal aliens currently being held in detention centers because
of funding and manpower shortages. And finally, in just the last
year, federal agents in one border sector alone seized 132 tons of marijuana
and more than 3 tons of cocaine worth a total of $408 million.
I recently cosigned a letter
with a number of my colleagues imploring the President to fill a backlog
of vacant Border Patrol positions. But clearly this is not enough.
By the time those positions are filled with qualified candidates, who knows
how many more illegal drugs will hit our streets and reach our children?
Mr. Speaker, it's time to
put a stranglehold on our borders once and for all. I urge all members
to cosponsor H.R. 628.
LINKS FOR FURTHER BACKGROUND
Week Online news coverage:
8/22/97: No Indictments for
Marines Who Shot Hernandez
9/13/97: House Passes Bill Increasing
11/2/97: Plan to Put 10,000
US Troops on the Texas-Mexico Border Dies in Committee
1/15/98: Pentagon Proposes Ending
Military Border Patrols
2/27/98: No Federal Charges
to be Filed Against Marine Who Shot Hernandez
9/11/98: Texas Paper Releases
Scathing Pentagon Review of Esequiel Hernandez Shooting
2/5/99: Pentagon Restricts Use
of Troops in Border Drug War
-- END --
Issue #91, 5/21/99
Two-Year Anniversary of Hernandez Shooting | Legislation in Alaska Will Restrict State's Medical Marijuana Law | Australia: Police Force Closure of Safe Injection Room | Somali-Canadian Community Under Attack by Khat Enforcers | Canadian Medical Group Wants Doctors to Prescribe More Pain Meds | Higher Education Act Reform Campaign Update
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