Border Patrol’s inadequate use of force policies and extreme lack of accountability have led to a culture of violence and impunity that has devastated border communities for decades. The case of Anastasio Hernández Rojas, a longtime San Diego resident who was brutally tased, beaten and killed by U.S. border agents is the story of the struggle for justice in the borderlands.
Because of the egregious miscarriage of justice in this case — which includes not only a failure to bring charges against the agents involved, but also the attempted coverup of the incident by law enforcement — Anastasio’s family has brought their case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which will now sit in judgement of the United States and address the structural impediments to justice in cases involving border agents and other law enforcement officers. The IACHR hearing on November 4, 2022 is open to the public and will determine whether the murder, cover-up, and denial of justice for Anastasio’s family were human rights violations.
Links to Photos and Videos
- Photos of Anastasio Hernández Rojas
- Photos of Maria Puga
- Anastasio Hernández Rojas - Incident Video
- Justice for Anastasio artwork and graphics
- Logos for Alliance San Diego and UC Berkeley’s International Human Rights Law Clinic
Relevant Case Documents
- February 14, 2023 - The family of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas' final arguments to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
- March 29, 2016 - Petitioner Complaint: Filing to IACHR
- March 1, 2018 - Petitioner Response Brief: IACHR has authority to hear the case
- July 23, 2020 - IACHR Report on Admissibility
- July 28, 2020 - IACHR letter to U.S. Government requesting response to Complaint
- January 27, 2021 - Petitioner filing to IACHR re: additional observations on merits
- April 13, 2021 - IACHR letter to Petitioner: update on extending response period for the Government
- August 15, 2022 - Petitioner Request for Hearing to IACHR for Anastasio Hernández Rojas vs. United States of America (Case No. 14.042)
- October 18, 2022 - U.S. Government request to IACHR to close the November 4 hearing to the public
- October 24, 2022 - Petitioner response to IACHR re: U.S. Government request to close the November 4 hearing
Amicus Briefs & Organizational Support
- Letter of support signed by more than 200 organizations in US, Mexico and elsewhere
- Amicus brief by Erwin Chemerinsky, leading constitutional scholar in the U.S.
- Amicus brief by David Oppenheimer, leading racial justice scholar in the U.S.
- Amicus brief by William Aceves, leading international human rights scholar in the U.S.
Q: What do the petitioners seek from this hearing?
The Hernández family seeks from the United States government 1) a public apology, 2) the reopening of Anastasio’s murder investigation, and 3) reforms to current policies to end systemic abuse, beginning with Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the largest law enforcement agency in the United States.
In addition, the family asks the IACHR to examine the use of force in the United States, which is based on "reasonableness" instead of the international standard of "necessary and proportional"; as well as examine the obstruction of justice for relatives of victims, since international law requires independent and impartial investigations, which has never happened in trials against border agents.
Q: Why is this case significant compared to other cases heard by the IACHR?
Anastasio’s case is the first extrajudicial killing case involving law enforcement to be considered against the United States by the IACHR, and the outcome could set a precedent for other cases that follow.
Relevant Press Releases
- February 15, 2023 - Family of Anastasio Hernández Rojas Submits Final Arguments to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Before Decision
- November 7, 2022 - The Inter-American Commission holds historic hearing on death of Anastasio Hernández Rojas and the United States fails to respond
- October 25, 2022 - Organizations defending migrants in Mexico and the US join forces in the emblematic case of Anastasio Hernández Rojas
- October 21, 2022 - Press Conference in Mexico City “Twelve Years Fighting for Justice for Anastasio Hernández Rojas”
- October 13, 2022 - Inter-American Commission to Hold Hearing in Landmark Case Against the United States on Nov 4th
- August 16, 2022 - Family of Anastasio Hernández Rojas Takes the Next Step in Landmark Human Rights Case Against U.S.
- November 30, 2021 - In Landmark International Case, U.S. Fails to Answer to Allegations of Impunity of Border Agents
- February 4, 2021 - Former DHS Officials Reveal Details about Border Agency Cover-Up in New Filing with International Tribunal
- July 30, 2020 - International Tribunal Moves Landmark CBP Brutality Case Forward
- August 14, 2017 - RECAP: TELEPHONIC PRESS BRIEFING - U.S. Has So Far Failed to Respond to International Tribunal in Killing by Border Agents
- August 8, 2017 - U.S. Set to Break Precedent, Ignore International Tribunal in Killing by Border Agents
- May 17, 2017 - International Tribunal Opens Historic Case Against U.S. in Killing of Border Resident by CBP
Quotes from spokespeople
Cotizaciones en español están disponibles a continuación.
Maria Puga, Anastasio’s widow and the petitioner in this case
- “In 2010, United States Border Patrol agents took the life of Anastasio, the love of my life and the father of our five children. The officers involved never faced consequences. For the last 12 years, my family has fought for justice. We want no other family to have to go through the pain, suffering and anguish that we have had to experience.”
- “I seek justice not only for the death of my husband, but also for the other people killed by border agents before and after Anastasio’s death. The justice system is broken in the United States. The investigation into the killing of my husband is evidence of this — it was corrupted from the beginning by agents who have no regard for the law or for life. Anastasio was a husband, a father, a brother, and a son, and we honor him by fighting for our dignity, fighting for our human rights, and fighting to stop the abuse and impunity that continues to take lives.”
- “My life changed forever the day that border agents killed my beloved Anastasio. He was my life partner, my best friend, the father of our five children, a loving brother and son, and a friend to so many in the community. Our family will never be able to close the wound in our hearts caused by border agents. Our hearts hurt even more knowing that more people are dying not just at the hands of border patrol but also at the hands of police. They have denied our humanity, but we know who we are. We are people deserving of dignity and respect. We are grateful that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has granted us a hearing. It has been a long journey to get to this moment. It will be the first time that we can present our human rights claims against the United States, a government that has denied us justice for twelve years.”
- "I still hear the cries of my husband calling for help. No one deserves to be treated the way Anastasio was treated. He was a human being. The border agents who killed him must have thought he didn’t have a family or a community. They were wrong. Here we are, and we will fight for justice for Anastasio and all of the other victims of border agents until the system changes. I don’t want the government’s sympathy, I want their apology, and I want the abuse and the killing to stop. I am asking that the Commission instruct the United States to publicly acknowledge what they did to my husband, reopen the investigation, and change policies so no other family has to suffer what my family has suffered."
Andrea Guerrero, Executive Director of Alliance San Diego and attorney in the Anastasio case
- “Anastasio's case could mark a turning point in Border Patrol’s long history of abuse and cover-up.”
- “Anastasio's case sits at the intersection of policing and migration. It comes at a time when U.S. law enforcement agencies inside the country and at the border are using violence as a tool of control ... of migrants, of people of color, of poor people and other marginalized communities. This violence is enabled by a use-of-force standard in the United States that is out of step with international human rights standards and is at the crux of Anastasio’s case. If human rights are to have any meaning, they must be protected at all times and for all people. The fight for justice in Anastasio’s case is the fight for dignity and respect. It is the fight for our humanity. We look forward to accompanying Anastasio’s family in their hearing before the IACHR to hold the United States accountable.”
- "CBP is the most powerful, most abusive, and least accountable law enforcement agency in the country. Since Anastasio’s death, nearly 250 more people have died in an encounter with border agents, and no agent has been held responsible. In fact, in the near 100 year history of Border Patrol, no agent has ever been convicted for killing someone. Now use of force by border agents is on the rise with an average of 3 incidents a day, according to their own data, with little to no accountability. Given the scale of the agency, the scale of abuse, and the scale of impunity, CBP poses the greatest threat to human rights in the United States. Now is the moment for the American public and the world of nations to ask the hard questions about why border agents have been able to get away with so much for so long, abusing and killing its own citizens, as well as migrants and travelers from all over the globe. Now is the time for the Inter-American Commission to hold the United States to account for its actions."
Roxanna Altholz, Co-Director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley and attorney in the Anastasio case
- “The torture and murder of Anastasio Hernández Rojas was due to a whole system that fosters violence and impunity on the part of Border Patrol officers in communities in the southern United States. Without the support and consent of these structures, it would not have been possible for 17 officers to torture one person in public, in front of dozens of witnesses, without consequence.”
- “When it comes to violence by border agents, impunity reigns supreme because use of force standards are inadequate and accountability mechanisms are weak. During the U.S. Border Patrol's nearly 100 year history, no agent has been held accountable for an on-duty killing by a criminal court. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court closed the courthouse doors on victims seeking redress for abuse of power by federal officers. This hearing is Anastasio’s family’s first opportunity to show how the abuse and impunity they suffered is the result of systemic human rights violations.”
- "The hearing was a historic opportunity for an independent and impartial body to examine the laws and institutions that foster violence and impunity in the United States. We presented overwhelming evidence that the United States committed grave human rights violations. Unfortunately, the United States refused to respond to our serious allegations that U.S. law enforcement tortured and killed an unarmed Latino man, and then orchestrated a cover-up. The United States’ indifference to its international human rights obligations and the family’s right to truth and accountability demonstrates how far we have to go to achieve racial justice in this country. We urge the Commission to condemn the United States in the strongest possible terms."
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