What follows is a letter I received from Scott Nicholson, a community organizer who has been working on the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. It is posted here in full with his permission.
Two months ago today, 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez was killed by the Border Patrol here in Nogales, Sonora. Today is also International Human Rights Day commemorating the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations on December 10, 1948. It seems like an appropriate moment to consider the impact of the United States’ militarization of the border.
A Border Patrol agent in Nogales, Arizona fired at least 14 shots from his assault rifle into Nogales, Sonora on the night of October 10. Jose Antonio was hit twice in the head and four times in the chest.
The Border Patrol claims the agent fired in self-defense after rocks were thrown at agents who were pursuing two drug smugglers. Their brief statement issued the following day notes that the agent “discharged his service weapon” and “one of the suspects appeared to have been hit.”
“They ripped out a part of my soul” said Araceli, Jose Antonio’s mother, during a gathering of border organizations in Ciudad Juarez. “He was and is part of my life. I still hear his voice. My son had a lot of dreams. Why do they have to kill innocent people?”
I moved back to Nogales ten days after Jose Antonio was killed and I’ve been drawn to that site several times. I went there the day after I returned here and my last visit was two days ago. I’ve also walked along the U.S. side of the border wall near where the shots were fired.
Jose Antonio was killed on the sidewalk in front of Dr. Luis Contreras’ home and clinic on International Street. The agent placed the barrel of his rifle between the steel beams of the border wall and shot down into Nogales, Sonora. That section of the wall is about 20 feet high and set on a hill that is 25 feet above the street.
The initial shots were fired from at least 100 feet away and eight bullets hit the corner of the building. The final shots were fired from about 50 feet away and three bullets hit that side of the building where Jose Antonio died. It would have been extremely difficult to throw a rock from there and hit the agent who fired all those shots.
The killing took place approximately 100 yards from a Border Patrol surveillance tower. The video that was recorded by the cameras that night has not been released to the public or to Jose Antonio’s family.
It would appear that the Border Patrol is able to get away with murder because the victim was Mexican. Would the U.S. government show more concern if an agent on the northern border had killed a 16-year-old Canadian, or if the roles were reversed and Jose Antonio had shot into the United States and killed someone there?
“Why are they able to go out and kill here?” asked Araceli. “Why are they covering them up? I want to know who they are. I want them arrested and I want justice.”
“There have been very many young people, teenagers, who have been killed at the border” said Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “The reports reaching me are that there has been excessive force by the U.S. border patrols.”
In love and solidarity,