Ever dragged yourself to the mailbox dreading to find fliers selling useless crap, bills you don’t have money to pay, the bills from the guy that used to live at your address…5 years ago…, and maybe an occasional letter asking to donate to some cause? Any cause, pick one. All over the place millions are dying, sick, needy, hungry, or some combination of the above. For $20 bucks a month you can end all that and blah blah blah. Of course you’d love resolution to the worlds problems, but you’d also like gas prices to go down, and the rent be paid, and those amazing shoes that would go great with the new pair of pants you just bought. It’s just math. You’d help if you could, but you can’t, but its something you’d like to eventually donate to in the future when things are less complicated.
A psychologist by the name of Paul Slovic did an experiment with a group of people by giving them a photograph of a starving African girl from Mali and when asked to make a financial contribution to help her, most were willing. People were given a photo and also asked to contribute to help a starving African boy, which again most were willing to do. People were shown the photographs of both the boy and girl together and donations sharply decreased. When the group was asked to donate to 21 million starving Africans no one wanted to contribute at all. This study and other research has found that there seems to be a “compassion fatigue” once the number of victims reaches 2. I find this a bit disturbing, but maybe not that surprising.
Groups like Save the Children play on this “compassion fatigue” when they send you their letters asking you not to help X number of needy kids,…they ask you to help little Juanito, with big brown eyes and a desperate ‘please help me’ look, go to school so he can become the doctor he dreams of being. There seems to be scientific evidence that when the brain makes a moral decision its the emotional areas of the brain that are light up, not the rational ones. So in the case of causes and goodwill, hearing figures like X million means a lot less when compared to 1 situation, or 1 person with a name and with a story.
Last Friday PBS broadcast “Crossing the Line at the Border” through the program “Need to Know”, outlining the story of one man’s death at the U.S. border by the hands of U.S. officials.
This man has a name. Its Anastasio Hernández Rojas. He was 29 years old. That’s 5 years older than me. His widow is Maria Pulga, and she now is left to care of her 5 U.S. citizen children. Anastasio who was an undocumented Mexican living in the U.S. who had been detained. It was while he was detained requests for medical attention (stating that he was in intense pain after an officer had kicked his ankle that had metal pins in it from a previous surgery), and the inquiry of his court date were denied. Despite being undocumented these are legal rights the detainees have, again both were denied. He was simply taken to the border to San Ysidro / Tijuana, Mexico and it was on the U.S. side he was eventually tied and handcuffed behind his back and surrounded by a group of up to 20 U.S. border officials who proceeded to beat, kick, punch, hit with batons, and then use a taser 5 times on him. It was brutal torture and killing of a man, who was not resisting at anytime, and called out for help multiple times.
There are at least 3 eye witnesses who have come forward, one from the Tijuana side, one from the ground on U.S. side, and one eye-witness from above. Their stories match and more over, have actual footage showing the killing of Anastasio, taken from their cell phones. The videos are incredible to watch. Absolutely disgusting. You see him on the ground surrounded and being brutally murdered. Its sickening.
Some of the witnesses even called out asking why this was happening, that he wasn’t resisting, and non of the officials did anything except continue for around 30 minutes until he became life-less. It was only after the excessive force an ambulance was called, which by that time was useless. He was pronounced dead in the hospital.
This story was aired on Friday, however the incident took place 2 years ago, on May 28, 2010. Journalist John Carlos Frey broke the story, and has been working to uncover the details including the investigations or in this case lack of. From statements Frey made on Democracy Now! Aired on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 Frey basically explains that the San Diego investigation into the matter was only half-ass and didn’t lead to any action but more dismissed the events, and that the Justice Department hasn’t taken any further steps such as a simple reviewing of the video evidence, or questioning the witnesses. All support lies with the officers of the border control and things are being kept under wraps. There hasn’t even been response on the part of a civil suite made by his widow, Maria.
It’s a case that no body wants to look at. The Federal Government doesn’t want to do anything. Branches like the U.S. Border Control and ICE are untamed monsters that go unchecked and reprehended. Similar abuse cases happen all the time between the 250 detention centers around the U.S.. I listened to a podcast by another PBS program, “Frontline” a special “Lost in Detention” aired October 19th, 2011 that gives personal examples of victims and witnesses to sexual assaults, and beatings and illegal and immoral practices that continually go unchallenged within the system.
The U.S. stance on immigration is an evolving epidemic that seems to only worsen. So much can be said on this topic, and so many people are being affected when taking in account all the murders, harassments, and illegal and unpunished actions being carried out in detention centers, at our border, and in our communities.
I wish that throwing out figures and numbers would shock people into realizing how large a scale this issue really is, but I feel just like the X million starving people in Africa, immigrants in this country are being ignored and injustices are continuing and building in front of our eyes, when these events are altering who we are as a nation and define how we are as a people and what we allow to happen. This is our history and our legacy unfolding and I think now more than ever with examples like Egypt and Occupy and the continued use of social media and awareness we should feel empowered to know that we have voices and duties to stand for what we know and feel is right.
It’s tragic to think of the millions of people who have and continue to be victims of the harsh U.S. attitudes towards immigrants. Even after hearing stories or having evidence people still say ignorant things like,…well ‘they’ steal our jobs, and ‘they’ should speak English, and ‘they’ broke the law, and ‘they’ this and ‘they’ that. If anything good could come out of such a dehumanizing and barbaric act I would wish that ‘they’ would start to take a name. a face. a family. a life.
Stop thinking in ‘they’ and in X amounts.
His name was Anastasio Hernández Rojas, and he was murdered by U.S. Border Control.
**This is based on information I gathered the following podcasts:
APM: On Being with Krista Tippett “Journalism and Compassion” February 9, 2012 [encore]
Democracy Now! Video April 24, 2012
Frontline:Audiocast PBS “Lost in Detention” October 19, 2011
**as well as confirmation on MANY other Spanish news sites, because this is basically Mexican Rodney King here and the U.S. doesn’t care.**