Undocumented and Abused at the Border

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A US Border Patrol vehicle drives along the fence separating the US from Mexico, near the town of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, on July 31, 2010. (ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty)

Each year, more than 25,000 undocumented immigrants are apprehended as they attempt to cross the border from Mexico to the United States. In most cases, we hear very few details about these apprehensions. But in one case, the details — which are especially gruesome — have become widely circulated. This is thanks to some newly-released eyewitness videos that were broadcast last Friday on PBS’ "Need to Know."

At the center of the story is a man named Anastacio Hernandez-Rojas. The eyewitness videos show him surrounded by over a dozen border patrol agents. The agents taser him, beat him, kick him, and at one point remove his pants — all while he appears to be handcuffed. Shortly after the beating, Hernandez-Rojas died. And while Hernandez-Rojas’s experience is extreme, it’s not entirely unique. His is one of eight known deaths of undocumented immigrants at the hands of the border patrol in less than two years.

John Carlos Frey is an investigative journalist for the Nation Institute who helped bring this story to PBS and the world. And Ashley Young is one of the people who witnessed and videotaped Rojas being beaten and tasered by the border patrol.

Please note:

The Takeaway reached out multiple times to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for a comment on this story. We did not hear back.

The Takeaway also reached out to U.S. Customs and Border Protection in San Diego. They gave us this statement:

"CBP stresses honor and integrity in every aspect of our mission. CBP employees and officers perform their duties with honor and distinction, working tirelessly every day to keep our country safe. We do not tolerate abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct by any of our personnel, on or off duty."



John Carlos Frey and Ashley Young

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [8]

Gary from Gary at the Arizona Border

I must clear up one statement I made previously. I'm on two of the Border Patrol Citizen's Boards. I am NOT an agent but heavily involved with their daily activities. Something to think about....during the fiscal year of 2011, 28% of those apprehended in the Tucson Sector (262 miles of border) have CRIMINAL RECORDS IN OUR COUNTRY. These are no longer just families and workers coming across. Many are heavily armed and work for the cartels.

Apr. 25 2012 07:42 PM
Gary from At the Arizona Border

I've been on the Arizona Border Patrol's Nogales station for 6 years. I've photographed and documented the whole Arizona Border with Mexico and have given 103 power point presentations on the subject including one to legislators in the Capitol. Of approximately 40,144 BP agents and customs agents nation wide, only an average of 16 per year have ever been found to have mistreated a prisoner. THERE IS NO WAR ON LATINOS. More than half of the agents are Latinos. 66% of Arizonians support SB1070 and that includes a huge population of Latinos. None of the previous comments were made by people who live at or near Arizona. Learn the facts before you judge the border patrol by one or two incidents. I've been with the agents dozens of times when they are rescuing dying crossers. Remember, if it "bleeds it reads". The reporting in this article should be relegated to the bottom of a birdcage. It's terribly slanted and plays on the emotions as it is designed to do. Gary "At the Border"

Apr. 25 2012 07:33 PM
James Duguay from Brockton, MA

Why do pollsters and politicians insist on having voters rank their priorities? I have many top concerns that don't go in descending order with a quantifiable care level. Much like you couldn't ask a mother which child is her favorite, you can't make me rank the issues on which I will be voting.

Apr. 24 2012 10:02 AM
Miguel Sarmiento from Miami

Since the 70's There is a War going on... The War on drugs which through the years resulted on more than 200k dead in Mexico and Central and America and many More in Colombia and South America. What we have here are not Undocumented but War Refugees...People running away from violence and the unsafe environment created by OUR WAR on drugs...These victims of that blod-filled war should be treated as war refugees not as "Illegal" or "Undocumented" ... Our government should offer them the same protection and benefits expressed in the Cuban Adjustment Act for the Cuban refugees, instead of persecuting, harassing and putting them away in private jails... see these two wars are different - One is on Drugs and the other on an obsolete Cold War of ideologies, however the people running away from the ideological war are welcomed with open arms, while the victims escaping dead and violence created by our government are treated as criminals...

Apr. 24 2012 09:47 AM

If the Supreme Court upholds Obamacare, will the enforcement of that and thousands of other laws and regulations be called "government intimidation" by the media? If not, why not?

Apr. 24 2012 09:37 AM
Maria Luisa O'Neill from Colorado.

I'm from Puerto Rico and lived most of my life in Colorado, and although I'm a USA citizen immigration is the most important issue in this election for me. Not until this issue is address with dignity and respect I, latina don't feel save. Now we have a racist environment against latinos in the USA. I'm concerned about the ramification that has for my children and for all as a Nation.

Apr. 24 2012 09:19 AM
Barbara from Greenwich Village

I watched the PBS program last Friday. I still hear the screams of the victim, and know they will remain with me a long time. Such brutality, and I commend the the investigator who made a heroic effort to obtain the full facts, the last being the courageous young woman who finally felt secure enough to release her video from the scene. Janet Napolitano has a record of treating immigrants horribly in detention since she was appointed, she has no humanity. This case shows a total lack of that quality, and that no one is being held accountable means it has been a policy. Fire her in her self-righteousness and lack of humanity.

Apr. 24 2012 08:54 AM

John Frey contradicts his own account. An area cannot be secure, with no place to run at the same time that bystanders are able to get close enough to video tape the incident. Then Frey claims these are individuals who have already surrendered. The witness then explains how despite having both hands and feet restrained, Hernandez-Rojas refuses to get into vehicle.

Apr. 24 2012 08:27 AM

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