Stolen Lives on the Border

Immigrants Shot by Migra Agents

Revolutionary Worker #977, October 11, 1998

Within 24 hours during the weekend of September 26-27, U.S. Border Patrol agents killed two Mexican immigrants on the border between San Diego and Tijuana. The shooting on Saturday night happened just north of Colonia Libertad, a Tijuana neighborhood next to the border fence, near the Pacific Ocean. According to the Los Angeles Times, Migra agents tried to arrest three people who had crossed the 10-foot-high border fence in the hills east of San Ysidro. One man escaped, but agents pulled another man to the ground and struggled with him. The third immigrant, 23-year-old Oscar Abel Cordoba Velez from Guadalajara, was coming to the aid of his friend when he was shot in the chest by one of the agents.

The Border Patrol claims that Oscar Cordoba had a rock in his hand and was "threatening" the agent who fired the fatal shot. But this story was contradicted by witnesses interviewed by the Mexican consulate in San Diego. According to the Mexican consul-general, these witnesses said Cordoba "was not carrying anything in his hands. No weapon. No rocks."

On Sunday night, a 35-year-old immigrant was shot and killed in almost identical circumstances. This man's name is not known as we go to press. The Sunday shooting happened near Goat Canyon, half a mile east of the Pacific Ocean. The Border Patrol's version of events is that their agent was searching for immigrants when he was pelted with rocks. They claim that the agent was about to get into his car when he saw a man lunge at him with a rock in his hand. The agent fired a shot to the man's stomach and killed him.

In both these shootings, the justification for the use of deadly force was that Border Patrol agents--armed with powerful guns --felt their "life was in danger" from immigrants holding rocks. How many times have we heard this kind of shameful excuse from armed enforcers who brutalize and murder the people? In occupied Palestine, U.S.-backed Israeli troops regularly shoot Palestinian youth for throwing rocks. Police in New York have shot kids for holding toy guns or even a candy bar. The Stolen Lives Project has documented many cases around the country of people killed in cold blood by cops.

Oscar Cordoba and the other immigrant man had their lives stolen by the Border Patrol--for the "crime" of trying to cross the border so they could work.

These two killings on the San Diego-Tijuana border are the latest in the recent serial shootings of immigrants by the Border Patrol. On September 11, a Border Patrol agent in San Luis, Arizona fatally shot an immigrant. The Migra also justified this shooting by claiming that the agent was "threatened" with a rock by an immigrant.

In two other shootings near San Diego, Border Patrol agents fired at immigrants in vehicles. On September 26, an agent shot at a fleeing car but missed the people inside. Two days earlier, agents fired at a car full of immigrants. The driver was injured with a bullet to his chest. The Border Patrol claims that the immigrant tried to run over the agents with the car.

A Border Patrol spokesman said that the agency has a policy of allowing agents to fire their weapons whenever they feel they are seriously threatened. He said the agents are permitted to shoot "only with the intent of stopping the person or animal from continuing the threatening behavior which justifies the use of deadly force." The fact that this Migra spokesman put immigrants and animals on a par reveals the disgusting outlook of these border gestapo.

Another Border Patrol spokesman said, "Your typical Jose or Maria who want to come across into the United States to get work, your typical migrant, is becoming more aggressive because there are people waiting 40 to 50 days on the south side to come across, and they're desperate." Again, racism oozes from the mouth of this government official.

But his words also point to something real going on at the border. Deepening poverty in Mexico is forcing many people northward to seek work in the U.S. so that they and their families can survive. But they come straight up against the U.S. government's stepped-up militarization of the border. The number of Border Agents is rapidly increasing, and they are equipped with high technology instruments of repression like night vision goggles and motion sensors. An iron wall has been built on large stretches of the border. Operation Gatekeeper and other Migra operations have made the border into a war zone.

Many immigrants try to avoid the most patrolled sections of the border by crossing at more remote--and more dangerous--areas in the mountains and deserts. An increasing number of immigrants are losing their lives attempting such crossings. Just since the weekend of September 26-27, the bodies of five more immigrants were found in the Imperial Valley and the desert near El Centro. According to official figures, 126 immigrants have lost their lives so far this year trying make the crossing from Mexico into California and Arizona.

Other immigrants continue to attempt crossings where the Border Patrol is more concentrated. There are reports of rising anger among immigrants at the brutal and racist Border Patrol. The Mexican consul general in San Diego said that "rock throwing has become a daily occurrence in recent years."

The Border Patrol and the media portray the immigrants as "criminals" who are "threatening" the Migra agents. This turns reality on its head. This government and its armed enforcers are forcing immigrants--women, men and children--to risk their lives trekking across deserts and mountains. Immigrants who dare to pick up a rock in self defense or who try to avoid arrest are being fired upon by the armed thugs of the Border Patrol. Who are the real criminals?!

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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