By Miriam Raftery
April 19, 2013 (San Diego) – A jury today has acquitted U.S. Border Patrol agent Luis Fonseca of using unreasonable force. Fonseca was shown on Border Patrol video strangling a migrant to unconsciousness while the undocumented migrant, Adolfo Cesar Escobar, tood with his hands against a wall waiting to be fingerprinted at the Imperial Beach Border Patrol station. Jurors found the video evidence inconclusive.
“This sends the wrong message to Border Patrol and fuels a culture of impunity in the agency,” said Andrea Guerrero, Executive Director of Alliance San Diego in a statement released today. The rights activist added, “It should never be acceptable to strangle someone who poses no threat, then kick him while he is down and walk away as if no harm had been done.”
The verdict was also criticized by Maria Puga, widow of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, an immigrant electrocuted and beaten to death by a dozen border agents in May 2010 at San Ysidro. “It is a shame that in this case, as was with the case of my husband, justice is so far removed and that this official and the officials who killed my husband benefit from impunity.”
Adrian Jasso with American Friends Service Committee, a human rights organization that documents cases of migrant abuse, called on Congress to improve oversight, training and accountability of agents as part of federal immigration reform. Jasso also denounced the term `Mexican heart attack’ used by agents to describe the incident as “derogatory, dehumanizing and offensive.”
Fonseca hugged his lawyer after the verdict was read. His lawyer, Stuart Adams, told reporters outside court that the verdict will help restore the reputation of his client, who has been on unpaid administrative leave and lost his car and home. “Clearly this is a huge step,” the attorney said, NBC news reported.
He added that Agent Fonseca loves the Border Patrol and hopes to return to working for the agency.