I think it's safe to say that a law enforcement agency has grown dangerously out of control comes when its officers begin using their powers to silence anyone who questions them or their authority. The tasing-and-beating death in 2010 of an illegal border crosser named Anastasio Hernandez Rojas near San Diego is a powerful sign that the U.S. Border Patrol has crossed that line.
Recently released footage of the man's beating makes clear that the Border Patrol's own accounts and explanations for the death are baldfaced fabrications.
Even more chilling are the revelations about how Hernandez Rojas came to be singled out by officers for a beating. It's readily apparent that he was beaten to death because he asked to file a complaint against an agent.
The beating did not occur when Hernandez Rojas was caught and arrested. When that happened, he was kicked repeatedly in a part of his ankle by an agent that had been surgically repaired, and the man had kicked him there even after being told that. As a result, once at the holding facility after the arrest, Hernandez Rojas made a request to file a complaint against that agent.
Then, as all the men with whom he was being held at the facility were taken to the border release point where they were to be returned to Mexico, Hernandez Rojas was separated out from the rest of the group and taken by himself to another gate -- surrounded by a full phalanx of Border Patrolmen armed with nightsticks and Tasers, including the agent against whom he had asked to file a complaint. It was there that, according to the Border Patrol, the man became "violent" and had to be subdued -- even though several eyewitnesses confirm that in fact Hernandez Rojas did nothing before the beating commenced.
If you're as moved as Mathew Yglesias has been moved, and there's only one thing you do in reaction to Vargas' story call Barack Obama through Presente.org and ask him to stop deporting people like Vargas.
Media Matters has a good round-up of the nativist conservatives that are committing demographic suicide by going berserk over this story. I'll write more on the nativists, later, but Vargas' story has highlighted, yet again, for me, how far progressives and the mainstream media have to go before they can begin to cover these stories accurately and with a semblance of humanity. Let's start with Heather Horn staff writer at The Atlantic:
Whatever you think of the illegal immigration issue, it's hard to dispute that there's a fundamental injustice occurring if Vargas gets let off the hook, while hundreds of thousands of other illegals get deported. Even those who want to see productive illegal immigrants granted amnesty might admit that making exceptions purely based on prominence isn't right. What if there's someone as intelligent and productive as Vargas--but not as famous--out there right now?
Wow. I don't even know where to start. While I somehow doubt Horn's concern for the "hundreds of thousands" that are being deported I've already told people who are concerned to call Barack Obama and ask that his administration use discretion to stop deporting people like Vargas. Recognizing that, I'll start simple with Horn's use of the term "illegal". More people have referred to Vargas as an "illegal immigrant" at this point than I care to count. Not only is that phrase dehumanizing, it's legally innaccurate. No human being is illegal. The word illegal should be used to describe acts, not to define people. Horn, however, goes a step further than dehumanization and legal innaccuracy and gets into butchering grammar with her use of the word "illegals." Sorry Ms. Horn, the word "illegal" is not a noun. Maybe you and the nativists who dehumanize people with the term "illegals" should start taking English lessons from undocumented people like Vargas. If you haven't signed the pledge to Drop The I-Word, please do so.
I'm sympathetic to Matt Yglesias' view that we should empathize with all people who come to the United States in search of a better life, even if, unlike Vargas, they do so knowing that what they're doing is illegal. But I've also worked with foreign-born journalists who've paid thousands or tens of thousands of dollars and waded through miles of red tape and seemingly senseless regulations—including, sometimes, returning to their home countries for a period—in order to work in this country.* (This applies outside of journalism, too, of course.) I wonder how they're feeling about Jose Antonio Vargas this morning.
It's difficult for me not to descend into sarcasm after reading this. Does Baumann really think that foreign journalists envy Vargas' position, right now, or for the last decade and a half, for that matter? Would Baumann care to get any of those foreign journalists on record so we know who those heartless bastards are? I thought the supposedly liberal Mother Jones magazine really took a step forward when reporter Tim Murphy stopped using the word "illegal," but Baumann just put the magazine another huge step backward in the anti-migrant direction with this post. Finally, I'll refer to Bryan Preston over at Pajamas Media whom I believe most succinctly provides the nativist view:
He took at least two jobs that otherwise would have gone to others who are here legally.