Texas Cops Murder Two Immigrants

Blood on the Border in La Joya

November 18, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On October 25, two Texas Parks and Wildlife Rangers reported seeing a "suspicious" truck crossing sparsely populated scrubland near the South Texas town of La Joya, close by the U.S.-Mexico border. They claim the truck driver wouldn't stop for them when ordered to do so.

They began a pursuit, and soon were joined by a helicopter from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS, i.e., state troopers). The DPS troopers later said a blanket they claimed covered the truck bed confirmed their belief that the truck carried a drug shipment. One of the cops, Miguel Avila, announced that he was going to "shoot out the tires" of the truck. "We have a clear spot," he declared. Avila leaned out the helicopter and began blasting away.

Moments later, two men riding in the truck were dead and another wounded. José Leonardo Coj Cumar, 32, and Marcos Antonio Castro Estrada, 29, were both from the Guatemalan town of San Martín Jilotepeque. They had taken their perilous journey into El Norte in search of work: José's eldest son needed surgery for a badly injured arm; Marcos had two young daughters and a pregnant wife he had difficulty supporting.

Other immigrants in the truck said the police story about a suspected drug shipment was clearly a lie. For one thing, four people were packed into the cab of the truck. The six in back were only partially covered by a blanket. The fact that the truck was carrying people was clearly visible to the cops in the helicopter hovering 400 or so feet above them. Speaking of the cop's story, Alba Caceres, from the Guatemalan consulate in McAllen, Texas, told a reporter that "Neither you nor I believe it."

The immediate response from Texas state officials was cold-blooded, brazen defense of murder. Sid Miller, the Texas state representative who heads the Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety which oversees the Texas DPS, responded to questions about the shooting this way: "Looks like everything was done according to DPS policy. It's unfortunate some people died, but I guess the lesson is: don't be running from the law. So there will be no hearing." A spokesman for Rick Perry, the Christian fascist governor of Texas and former presidential candidate, also called the incident "unfortunate," and then continued, "But border security continues to be a top priority for Gov. Perry and the people of Texas."

The notoriously violent and racist Texas Rangers conducted an "investigation" into the incident, and have turned over their findings to the FBI and the U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Hidalgo County District Attorney René Guerra also announced a grand jury investigation.

But at this point, no charges have been filed against any of the cops. Miguel Avila is back at work, doing "administrative duty." D.A. Guerra indicated the scope and direction of the official "investigations" and "hearings" when he told reporters, "The only thing that we're discussing is an overview of the incident. They [the Texas Rangers] brought preliminary facts and we are redirecting some areas in the investigation that they have to investigate through their sources and also Parks and Wildlife; just general stuff to set up the incident maps, the layout of the land, that kind of stuff." When a reporter asked Guerra whether charges would be filed against Miguel Avila, Guerra replied, "That's not even under consideration right now."

In fact, the only person facing any criminal penalties in this incident is the 14-year-old driver of the pickup, who has been charged with felony evasion of arrest. The youth has been released to the custody of his grandmother.

In an October 2012 report to the UN titled "Human Rights Violations on the United States-Mexico Border," the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the U.S. government's militarization of the border and criminalization of immigrants have led to "extensive civil and human rights abuses, including the deaths of more than 5,600 unauthorized border crossers. In addition, at least 18 individuals have died since January 2010 as the result of alleged excessive use of force by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, including six who were under the age of 21 and five who were U.S. citizens." On October 10 this year, 16-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez of Sonora, Mexico was shot dead by Border Patrol agents while he was in Mexico, for allegedly throwing rocks onto the U.S. side of the line. These killings are an expression of the grotesque militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border that has been under way for years and has accelerated under Obama.

In the last seven years, Texas and the Office of Homeland Security have poured over $600 million into "Operation Border Star" and other programs directed at militarizing state and local police units along the border. The result has been the purchase and deployment of Predator B drones, six armored high-speed gunboats on the Rio Grande, each of which is armed with six .30-caliber fully automatic machine guns capable of firing 900 rounds a minute, and a $7.5 million high-altitude spy plane. Ranger Reconnaissance Teams, in combat fatigues and carrying assault files, also now operate along the southern border.

The border between the U.S. and Mexico is soaked in the blood of thousands of immigrants who have died trying to cross it, and haunted by the pain of thousands more locked up in its detention centers. It is a dividing line and a point of collision between the U.S. and the countries this capitalist-imperialist monstrosity dominates to its south, dominating and distorting the already ravaged economies of those countries.

Since 2006 when the U.S. forced the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) on the people of that region, there has been a significant increase in investment in production for export rather than local consumption. According to the World Bank, a major instrument of western imperialism, "Poverty in Guatemala is both widespread and severe. Approximately 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line, which is defined as an income that is insufficient to purchase a basic basket of goods and services. Almost 58 percent of the population have incomes below the extreme poverty line, which is defined as the amount needed to purchase a basic basket of food."

The Southern Borders Communities Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and others organized and participated in protests and vigils in La Joya and other border locations. People carried pictures of the dead, and have vowed to continue to fight for justice.

We demand justice for José Cumar and Marcos Estrada!

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