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Border Patrol agents gun down unarmed teenager
No human being is illegal

May 30, 2003 | Page 4

Dear Socialist Worker,

Here is yet another example of the horror bred by an increased militarization of our borders in response to a demand to "secure the homeland" from foreigners. Juan Patricio Peraza Guijada, a 19-year-old undocumented migrant worker who saved money from his paychecks to buy presents for his siblings back in Mexicali, Mexico, was shot dead by Border Patrol agents in the streets of south El Paso, Texas, on February 22.

Juan Patricio was a guest at Annunciation House, a hospitality center for migrants. He was in the parking lot of the center, taking out the trash that Saturday morning when an unmarked Border Patrol vehicle with two agents entered the premises.

Juan Patricio was confronted and frisked. When a worker at Annunciation House came out to talk with the officers, Juan Patricio ran away. One of the agents pursued him on foot, while the other called for back-up and pursued him by car.

Back-up arrived instantly. Juan Patricio was cornered in an alleyway by approximately seven agents with few eyewitnesses. Because he had been frisked, the agents knew full well that he was unarmed. However, he was shot twice, in the arm and abdomen, and fell on the concrete. He died on the way to the hospital.

Witnesses who were standing outside their homes say that immediately after the shooting, Border Patrol agents approached them and said "What are you doing out here? What were you looking at?" and ordered them to go into their houses. But the intimidation of the Border Patrol did not stop there.

After El Paso Police Department investigators assured some undocumented witnesses of their safety in order to get a voluntary statement, Border Patrol agents showed up at the El Paso Police Department station. Border Patrol agents attempted to determine the legal status of the witnesses for the purpose of deporting them--knowing full well that they were key witnesses in the investigation of Juan Patricio's death.

Just hours after the killing, the Border Patrol released a statement labeling the death of Juan Patricio an act of self-defense, claiming that he flung a ladder at the agents while being chased and threatened their lives with a metal tube. Eyewitnesses did not agree. They disputed the existence of a ladder, and some said the alleged metal tube was broken broomstick.

On March 1st, a coalition of groups, ranging from the Border Network for Human Rights to the Border Agricultural Workers Project, signed a letter of indignation, calling for a thorough and neutral investigation of the shooting, without the interference of Border Patrol agents, and calling for a review of the court orders regarding the illegality of detaining people based on Hispanic appearance and the agreements local Border Patrol had made regarding the harassment of social service organizations. In speaking up against this crime, local organizers are speaking up against the mentality that regards migrant workers as disposable.

Migrants seek a more dignified life; instead, they are treated as criminals. We ask that migrants be treated as humans; we ask for outrage and solidarity from fellow human rights organizations. We insist that the death of Juan Patricio should not become a precedent for future treatment of immigrants under militarized Homeland Security policies, which will disproportionately affect poor workers who are not even a threat to national security. We demand accountability for the unwarranted use of violence against the most vulnerable.

Rubi Orozco, El Paso, Texas

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