NOGALES, Ariz. — A classic double standard is projected by the apparent conflict on the U.S.-Mexico border between the value of the life of a Mexican as compared to the value of the life of a U.S. citizen.
The actions of the U.S. authorities and the public reaction that followed the recent killing of one Arizona rancher in March compared to what happened after two Mexicans were killed by U.S. authorities in the last few weeks, demonstrates the sharp contrast of this double standard.
The killing of the rancher enraged the United States and a public outcry demanded control over the illegals painted as terrorizing the residents of the border. In fact, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) released this week shows that crime in the six major border cities generally declined during 2009 when compared to 2008.
Since then, the U.S. Border patrol killed two Mexicans, one 15 years old. These incidents, however, were not as heavily reported in the media and did not receive the kind of public backlash provoked by the rancher’s death.
Personally, I seethe at the arrogance of the U.S. officials who would excuse these killings and claim that the degree of human tragedy of the Mexican deaths doesn’t compare with the murder of the Cochise county rancher.
The tone of nearly all of the comments left on the story in the Arizona media insulted the dead with statements such as “one less beaner” and “declare war on Mexico.” Reading these comments deepened my outrage.
On Monday June 7th, Sergio Hernandez, 15, was shot dead by the U.S. Border Patrol. Hernandez was shot for throwing rocks at agents on bikes. A U.S. Border Patrol spokesperson said the discharge of the agent’s firearm was justified because the agents came under a barrage of large stones.
The irony is multifaceted. The killing of one U.S. rancher was a serious insult to the sovereignty of the United States, but the “legal” killing of a15 year old Mexican goes almost unnoticed.
The irony is historical as well. The history of the border at Ambos Nogales is littered with examples of U.S. agents killing Mexicans, mostly with an irresponsible return of deadly force.
In 1918, leading up to the Battle of Nogales on August 27th, three Mexicans were shot by U.S. border officials. Since then, the deaths of Mexican migrants in the broiling desert or by the Border Patrol continue to reflect the historical irony the Battle of Nogales represented.
The Battle of Nogales was a full-scale, single-day cross-border conflict between regular U.S. and Mexican troops. The dead included the Presidente Municipal of Nogales, Sonora and 17-year-old Maria Esquiville. Esquiville would return as a ghost in the 1988 movie, La Mera Frontera. In the movie Esquiville returns to find out why she wasn’t remembered after this tragic battle. In a strange way, the killing of Mexicans by U.S. authorities today continues to go almost unnoticed.
The continuing tragedy of Mexicans perishing in the Arizona desert apparently has desensitized Arizonans to the value of the migrants’ lives and this moral numbness appears to have seeped into Arizona’s psyche.