The U.S.-Mexico border values human life on a double standard

George Thomson

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.

Rocks on the border set the difference on the value of a human life. (Chris Karadjov/Borderzine.com

Rocks on the border set the difference on the value of a human life. (Chris Karadjov/Borderzine.com

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.

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24 Comments

  • Wiseman says:

    Don’t throw rocks.

  • koz says:

    ITS BECAUSE THE RANCHER WAS INNOCENT! Are you that slow, or that liberal? The rancher was innocent, caught up in the drug war because he called in a few drug mules on his property just days before. The man tasered was on drugs, and fighting law enforcment. The 15 year old was throwing rocks, and was a human smuggler. Are you that dense that you cant see why the American public feels enraged over one, and not the other two? And i bet your one of those people who thinks guns vs rocks isnt a fair fight. Well first off, how about i stand you against a wall and i get one chance to throw a baseball sized rock at you…just one. We will see if you live through the experience. Secondly, its not supposed to be fair. If person working in law enforcement faces death, or serious bodily hard, they are allowed to answer with deadly force. That is the right given to them by the USA. Get over it you crazy leftist. Arizona is ashamed to have you as a citizen.

  • koz says:

    oh and p.s., if you dont like how this country treats people, or reacts to certain things, theres no reason you cant become a tonk too and travel to another country. LATER IF YOU DONT LIKE IT!

  • alfo gonzalez says:

    Great article George. Not recognizing the equality in the value of human life is what brings empires down!!!!

  • Paola says:

    Despite the fact I respect your thoughts, I find it disgusting that you believe it is fair for an agent to answer with deadly force to a child, never proven to be a human smuggler, who was throwing rocks. No evidence tells us they were baseball-sized rocks and the lame video evidence available does not show the 15 year old victim to be the attacker. So yes, it is an agent’s right, given by the USA, to protect themselves with fire arms against bodily harm, including rocks; let’s just hope our country may also provide the agent at fault with peace of mind for the atrocity he committed.

    And yes, I am one of those people who thinks guns vs rocks isn’t a fair fight. I’m positive you must have sibilings, childrenir a young person you care about in your life. Now get in the shoes of the family who lost their boy, who had a his whole life ahead of him, in such a way?

    How about you throw rocks at me and i shoot you in the face…just once?

  • koz says:

    it is proven that he is a human smuggler, you dont show up on a top ten smuggling list if your not a smuggler. And you think that a 15 year old couldnt kill you with a rock? let me go get a 15 year old, give him a rock, and you stand there and see if you make it out alive with a rock to a head. And actually it does show that the 15 year old was throwing rocks because you can hear the girls in the video say that he was dumb for throwing the rocks. I dont feel bad for the family who lost their son bc they shouldnt allow their 15 year old to roam around, let alone roam around the border! He was involved in smuggling and the parents could care less. And bringing a gun to a rock fight is completely fair, both can kill, so why should the agent die when he is just doing his job?

  • TuPapa says:

    I wanted to laugh when I read this article. I was asking myself, “is he serious”?!!!!. Kox, you can explain it to these people a thousand times and they still won’t get it. They are so immerse in a fantasy world were everyone should do whatever they please without facing the consecuenses. And Paola, you are so naive to belief that because he was a teenager he was inocent. How about you blame the parents of the child for letting their kid get involved with smugglers and gangs in the first place. Where do you think that way of life leads???!!! Also the video that is being shown around is not the only video. Anyway, Koz couldn’t explain it any better!

  • J bortoni says:

    Paola, I’m not sure I understand your position. Why would you want a “fair fight” between the authorities (CBP) and illegal crossers. The point of weapons held and used by the authorities is to deter crime such as attacks by 15 year olds with rocks in their hands. Especially 15 year olds with a history of human trafficking.
    Would you really expect for the CBP agent to stand up and yell “NO FAIR! YOU”RE THROWING ROCKS!” I don’t think so. IF the parents at some point had taught the youth the difference between right and wrong, he would still be alive.
    I was born in Mexico, live within 10 miles of the border today, and have many, many friends who are Mexican. Hell, I’m proud to think of myself a dual citizen. Last night I had over for dinner two friends who are legal residents. In the course of a totally different conversation, one of them said something profound. “Culturally, the typical Mexican does not deal well with authority.”
    Think about it. How many times have you heard someone say “Chin…” or “Que se
    ch…”or something worse. This attitude is something passed on from generation to generation. ” I’ll do what I want!” Well, sometimes that arrogance backfires and you have a family burying their child and blaming the “pin… gabachos”.

  • Jaime Fuerte says:

    Are you hi?
    What in the world are you on? Try again! Good thing youre a student journalist and can still learn somemore.-BKT

  • George Thomson
    George Thomson says:

    Just to be clear on my point, there appears to be a double standard American mass opinion about the value of life on the border

    There is absolutely no reason that child should have been killed.

    Taking the life of a child, for any reason, is the greatest crime.

  • Ed Racine says:

    As an American who has raised a bicultural legally immigrated family some 36 years ago I possess what I feel to be a unique perspective to this issue. As any of us that live on the border are keenly are of, this situation did not develop yesterday. Illegal immigration has been an escalating issue for the past 50 years. Frustration from the right and left has escalated the rhetoric to new heights. We clearly don’t need any new laws. The existing laws over the past 50 years have never been enforced for various reasons, mostly economic. Arizona has an existing employer law on the books that is indeed effective. It requires the use of the E-Verify system. Arizona readily admits it does not have the resources to enforce the law. Why do I have any confidence that a new Arizona Law will be enforced any better. It won’t be. There is a distinct difference in the value of human life. When innocent bystanders, in the case of the Arizona rancher, are sucked into this sordid mess; we all wonder will I be next. Illegal immigrants choose their path and the implied risks that are associated with breaking the law. Hear me on this point; for whatever humanitarian reason you can justify in your own mind, all of these individuals have broken the law. However you justify that, we can not tolerate that law abiding Americans are placed in jeopardy. New laws are not the answer. Hold employers accountable. If there are no jobs, no one will come. Deal with the drug cartels accordingly. These are murderous scum. Don’t confuse the two issues. Lastly deal with the illegally assimilated illegal immigrants. Good lord we are a resourceful nation that sent people to the moon. I cannot believe that we cannot resolve this challenge.

  • Diane D'Angelo says:

    I just want to point out that the murder of rancher Richard Krantz remains unsolved.

  • William E. Tibbe says:

    Shootings:

    The article about the shootings seems to ignore some basic considerations:

    Rancher Rob Krentz was on his own ranch, in his own country, minding his own business. An illegal alien criminal drug trafficker deliberately shot and killed Krentz. News stories allege that the invader was either an advanced scout/lookout or a trafficker who had cached bundles of illegal substances somewhere near by. The other supposition/theory was that the traffickers have entered into a new phase of development. Previously they had a policy of don’t kill Gringos. Now the mules/packers are escorted by armed guards who willingly open fire on Sheriffs deputy law enforcement officers and claim that they now “own” the territory up to I-8 !. Kentz had a reputation of helping foreigners with water and other assistance peacefully.

    The 15 year old boy, according to media reports, was illegally in US territory, openly confronting and defying a law enforcement officer, and further assaulting the officer with potentially injurious or deadly rock throwing. The boy was said to be chronically engaged in malfeasance and had been apprehended more than once doing basically the same thing *( either guiding/trafficking illegal aliens and/or trafficking illegal substances ). He was essentially so corrupt and criminally inclined that he could have been guilty of moral turpitude. If he had been tasered, lassoed, tackled, and taken in for retention and deportation, the next day and years after he would have been doing the same thing over and over. Since BP, CBP, ICE, DHS, local sheriffs apparently didn’t see fit to incarcerate the boy, or try to rehabilitate him, I would like to hear from someone their solution to the problems this boy was creating repeatedly !

  • Ultima Rodriguez says:

    I hesitate to weigh in on this matter since it appears that the two opposing viewpoints have already been expressed quite succinctly. I would ask, “When does a child become more than a child?” If a young gangbanger goes out an shoots someone at random as part of his intiation rites,is he now not just a child but a killer? There is a point when one graduates from the relatively innocuous pranks of a child whose brain is not fully developed to the juvenile delinquent who is a major headache. I believe we used to put the latter in what was called euphemistically “reform school”. Maybe we need to open some “on the border” reform schools where delinguents could continue their educations after they have spend time working on or repairing border infrastructure. Tolerating the use of a potentially lethal weapon like a rock would cause a complete breakdown of law enforcement.

  • George Thomson
    George Thomson says:

    The killing of a child, of child, for any reason, is the greatest crime.

  • ultima says:

    I’m sorry, George. I cannot agree with that statement. Is soldier or police officer in Iraq faced with a teenage suicide bomber supposed to sacrifice his own life in order to not be guilty of “the greatest crime.” However, commendable in other contexts, your viewpoint on this is just not reasonable when the child has graduated to the ranks of hardened criminals. I’m reminded of the small children wielding machine guns in “Blood Diamonds”, I believe it was, and innumerable stories about teenage killers in street gangs. I suspect your view would change if it was your family that was threatened or harmed by a child with a gun or other weapon. I would take a very dim view of that if it were my family. I don’t sanction the wanton killing of children even if they are criminals if it can be avoided. I can’t imagine a worse sight than a child whom you have just killed protecting your family from harm.

  • ultima says:

    Are you sure the killing of the boy went unnoticed? I noticed it on at least one blog in the U.S. in addition to yours. I suspect it got even greater play in Mexico and certainly did not go unnoticed by those charged with investigating these incidents. Probably Mexicans undervalued the lives of the BP agent and Robert Krentz in much the same way as the teenager’s life was undervalued here. We do tend to value our own more highly than others. Haven’t you noticed how U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan receive much more play than civilian casualties?

  • ultima says:

    I don’t agree killing a child is the greatest crime. The greatest crime would be a failure to do so at the expense of your own family or some other innocent person. Are you willing to say that you would stand by and allow a child to kill a police office because to kill the child would be the greater crime? There is something inherently wrong with that reasoning.

  • George Thomson
    George Thomson says:

    I know I’d give my life to protect a child.

  • ultima says:

    That is a different matter. People do that every day to protect children and even adults. The question is under what circumstances would you believe the killing of a “child” would be justified? If he had just killed a member of your family and was threatening others? What if it was a policeman or border patrol agent who was about to be shot? What if it you was you who were about to be shot, would you just allow that to happen to protect the child if you had the alternative of protecting yourself with lethal force? Not a position anyone would like to be in but I am certain it has happened more than once.

    Somehow I don’t find your altruism believable, admirable maybe but not believable.

  • tess kateri says:

    The boy that was murdered at the border is only the tip of a bigger problem from lack of education through poverty. That boy will be missed by family but will be replaced with another boy if the bigger problem that put him there isnt eliminated. This will be a viscouse cycle where many young people both native and not are going to get hurt. Shutdown the employer and there will be no work for employee. Leave no other option but education as half the US has realized as they loose there jobs and homes as employment moves to mexico. The drunk driver should not drive! The diabetic should not over due sugar! The drugatic should not use drugs! These are all situations people get into and ultimately the consequence can end up in death, thats life! If the boy was diabetic and the family was not educated on how to care for a diabetic and his over indulgence in sweets ended in death would we blame the guy who sold the chocolate? First it is a matter of education second it is a choice. I think by age 15 you have an idea of the risks involved in what you are doing. He made an uneducated bad choice. Sooo Sad

  • Zita Arocha
    Zita Arocha says:

    Yes, the media often employ a double standard when covering border “crime” stories, often reporting the public outcry when a “white” rancher or “anglo” residents are victims of crime by “illegals” and under reporting or ignoring similar stories when the victim is brown skinned or “illegal.” Sadly this has been the case historically when it comes to mainstream media covering or writing about “minority” communities in the U.S. They just don’t see us.

  • George Thomson
    George Thomson says:

    Please see my other recent comments on this topic at:
    Any life is expendable along the Wall of Shame” at:

    http://borderzine.com/contributors/geo/

    Thank you for your observations

  • Paul Ochoa says:

    I ask forgiveness, mostly from the readers. I wrongly anticipated a VERY left leaning series of comments in response to this article. My father is a VERY pro-chicano activist (in my opinion an unofficial candidate for leadership in La Raza) who sees Hispanics, whether illegal or not, as the answer to America’s problems. This author seems to think the same.

    Note: I’ve arrived at this conclusion only after one article. there’s no certainty, mind you, hence the use of the word ‘seems’.

    On the contrary, It seems many comments were made by people who have respect for the law and believe a threat to life is a threat to life, is a threat to life. Whether it takes the form of an adolescent intentionally throwing a large rock or an officer doing his job, it matters not. What is one to do when threatened in this manner?

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