By Miriam Raftery
April 14, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) - The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) held a rally in San Diego on Tuesday to announce a Day of Action to Stop Border Brutality on May 28, the 91st anniversary of the founding of Border Patrol. The date coincides with the 5th anniversary of the killing of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a father of four children, by border agents.
On May 28, 2010, Rojas, a longtime resident of San Diego, was beaten, shot with a Taser and killed by border agents at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. An eyewitness recorded the incident and the video became national news, heightening allegations of brutality by Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which has reportedly linked to at least 30 deaths. The cell phone video showed Rojas on the ground surrounded by agents, handcuffed and still being tasered, and calling out for help.
He died of a heart attack, the medical examiner concluded. The Border Patrol claimed Rojas, facing deportation, was uncooperative and that the use of force was justified, NBC news reported.
The Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation in the Anastasio case. Nearly five years later, the criminal proceedings are still pending.
Seeking to hold the agents accountable, Rojas' widow, Maria Puga and their children, brought a civil lawsuit in March 2011, alleging that agents brutally killed her husband and violated his constitutional rights.
A press release issued by the Southern Border Communities Coalition claims, “The government has repeatedly attempted to obstruct and delay the civil court proceedings and is now attempting to delay the case even further by filing a frivolous appeal before the case even goes to trial.”
The release notes that over the last four years, to keep from having to go to court, the government filed a motion to keep the agents’ identities secret and another to indefinitely stay the discovery process through which the government would have to produce evidence until after criminal proceedings conclude. The judge denied both of these motions.
The federal government also filed a motion for summary judgment to throw out the case, arguing
arguing that the government agents were immune from civil liability because they did not violate any constitutional rights. The judge denied the motion finding sufficient evidence in the record to establish the violations alleged.
Now, with trial set to be calendared this year in district court, the government has filed yet another appeal to the Ninth Circuit to avoid trial based on what the Southern Border Communities Coalition calls “frivolous claims” that could delay trial by several more years.
Maria and her children, through their attorney, have asked the district court judge to proceed to trial despite the appeal. A decision on the frivolous filing is expected any time now.
The press briefing held by the coalition and Rojas’ family was streamed live on the internet at www.soboco.org.
The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) represents 60 organizations from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas, to ensure that border enforcement policies and practices are accountable and fair, respect human dignity and human rights, and prevent the loss of life in the region.