Human rights activist Pedro Rios talks to demonstrators (including Maria de Luz Rojas, her children, and members of the Tachiquin family)
A group of about 250 demonstrators at the San Ysidro Port of Entry called for justice and transparency on Saturday, February 23.
The loud and peaceful protesters, including the families of three people killed by Border Patrol and U.S. Customs agents, demanded some kind of public accountability for incidents that involve excessive force.
The demonstration was part of a three-day effort to get answers from the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The issue of accountability was to be addressed in meetings held in Washington with congressional delegates on Monday, February 25.
“It is time to be able to ask questions and get answers," said Pedro Rios of the Southern Border Communities Coalition.
Among the families were the parents, husband, and five children of Valeria Munique Tachiquin, who was shot to death in September by an undercover Border Patrol agent.
Tachiquin, 32, a U.S.-born citizen, left an apartment in Chula Vista when plainclothes agents arrived to arrest the resident of the apartment. What happened after that is in dispute: the Border Patrol said she struck the agent with her car and carried him 200 yards on the hood until he fired through the windshield nine times. Witnesses at the scene both supported and contradicted that version.
"I want answers, I want justice," said Valentin Tachiquin, her father. "My daughter is dead and they will not talk to us about the investigation."
Maria de Luz Rojas was also at the demonstration with the five children she had with Anastasio Hernandez Rojas. Hernandez, 42, was allegedly beaten and tased to death. He was revived eight minutes afterward but suffered severe brain damage and died at a hospital in 2010. The investigation into his death by San Diego police concluded it was a homicide, but the reports remain sealed almost three years later while the federal agencies allegedly conduct their investigation.
Both families are suing Customs and Border Protection for a variety of claims, including inadequate training and excessive force.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a statement that read: “All accusations of misconduct are taken seriously and are investigated as thoroughly as possible. In most circumstances, after an investigation of wrongdoing, agents and officers were found to have conducted themselves appropriately. However, any CBP agent or officer within our ranks that does not adhere to the highest standards of conduct will be identified, and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken. Mistreatment or misconduct by a CBP agent or officer will not be tolerated in any way.”