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PBS Documentary Reveals Border Patrol Officers Tasing Immigrant Man to Death

by Mahwish Khan on 04/23/2012 at 6:23pm

A horrifying video of a man being tasered to death by Border Patrol officers is the latest in the series of controversies facing this often out-of-control branch of the Department of Homeland Security.  Watch the video:

La Opinion, one of the nation’s largest Spanish language newspapers, editorialized about it over the weekend, and compares it with another horrifying event in civil rights history:

The dark video of a man lying on the floor while a group of police officers surrounds him and Tasers him is horrifyingly similar to one from 20 years ago, which we have remembered a lot lately because of the upcoming anniversary of the Los Angeles riots.

We think it’s appropriate to compare the images of Rodney King’s beating with the new images of a dozen Border Patrol agents surrounding Anastasio Hernández Rojas, a Mexican migrant worker caught trying to enter the country illegally near San Diego on May 28, 2010.

Of course, there are some differences. Rodney King survived the blows, while Hernández Rojas, 42, died as a result of the blows, kicks and electric shocks he endured that night. The San Diego medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Hernández Rojas had previously been deported, and had methamphetamines in his blood. Rodney King also had drugs in his system when he got arrested. However, the police protocols that are generally followed in a civilized country with laws set limits on the use of deadly force, especially when there are alternatives.

Last year, Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), admitted during a public hearing that the rapid growth of his agency’s staff has been to the detriment of their quality.

Between 2004 and 2010, the number of Border Patrol agents more than doubled. The staff is younger and less experienced, and their number has made it harder to conduct the required background reinvestigations every five years. As a result, there have been numerous corruption cases.

Here’s more about how it unraveled:

On May 28, 2010, 24-year-old Ashley Young was on a pedestrian bridge along the San Diego-Mexico border when she heard a man below crying out for help. In a nearby U.S. Customs and Border Protection holding area, Young saw what she says was a man on the ground being beaten and tased by agents. She found the scene so troubling that she took out a camera and hit “record.”

The piece is now a part of a documentary called “First Look: Crossing the Line” which aired on PBS last Friday.

Customs and Border Patrol have been involved in a number of scandals recently. As we’ve previously written, in March last year, the agency was instrumental in deporting a four year old US citizen back to Guatemala. A month later, we reported that a Los Angeles musician was tasered into a coma by an Arizona border patrol agent. And now, here’s another atrocity to add to their list.

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