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NGO Sign-On Letter to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Over 200 Groups Write in Support of the Family of Anastasio Hernández Rojas in Their Petition Before the IACHR

October 24, 2022 

Julissa Mantilla Falcón, President of the IACHR 
Edgar Stuardo Ralón Orellana, First Vice-President of the IACHR 
Margarette May Macaulay, Second Vice-President of the IACHR 
Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, Commissioner of the IACHR 
Joel Hernández García, Commissioner of the IACHR 
Roberta Clarke, Commissioner of the IACHR 
Carlos Bernal Pulido, Commissioner of the IACHR 
Tania Reneaum Panszi, Executive Secretary of the IACHR 
Organization of American States 
1889 F St NW 
Washington, D.C., 20006 

Re: Support for petitioners in case of Family Members of Anastasio Hernández Rojas v. United States, Case No. 14.042 

Dear Honorable IACHR Commissioners and Executive Secretary Reneaum Panszi: 

We, the undersigned 208 organizations, write in support of the family of Anastasio Hernández Rojas in their petition before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in their claim that the United States has historically and systemically used the power of the state to kill community members, cover it up, and deny families access to justice. Anastasio is one of thousands that have been killed by law enforcement in the United States with near total impunity in large part because the standards for use of force are inadequate and the mechanisms for accountability are weak. This disproportionately affects Black and Brown men, women, and children whose human rights have been violated and whose lives continue to be at risk because of the unchecked power of the state. 

We stand with the family of Anastasio, who was brutally killed in 2010 in San Ysidro, California by agents of the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Since Anastasio’s death, nearly 250 people have died in encounters with CBP, the majority of whom are Black and Brown people from countries including Angola, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the United States. These deaths are some of the thousands of deaths that have occurred year over year since 1924, when the United States established its first border enforcement agency, the U.S. Border Patrol, which is now part of CBP. In the near century that the United States has had border agents, few border agents have been charged and zero agents — none — have been convicted for any of the thousands of lives taken using the power of the state.

As the Anastasio case points out, the abuse and impunity in the United States are endemic to a justice system designed to protect law enforcement, not the communities they are sworn to serve. 

The Petitioner’s Additional Observations detail that on May 28, 2010, more than a dozen border agents surrounded Anastasio while he was handcuffed, hog-tied, and in the prone position on the ground. They beat him, shot him repeatedly with a Taser, and then put him into a positional asphyxiation position with an agent leaning on top of him until he stopped breathing. These acts constitute torture. The impunity began with border agents dispersing witnesses, erasing cell phone videos, intervening in the autopsy and investigative interviews, destroying government video, altering government documents, mishandling evidence, and acting at every turn to obstruct justice. 

This obstruction was not an aberration, but rather, the norm for CBP, which has illegally operated cover-up units called ‘Critical Incident Teams’ for decades outside of public view. The Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) revealed the existence of these teams to the public in a letter to the U.S. Congress in October 2021, which prompted several government investigations, currently ongoing, and the elimination of the teams. But the revelations about the cover-up units have not resulted in any accountability. The U.S. government seems poised to absolve border agents of past misconduct and to permit their involvement in future investigations of use of force. 

According to the Washington Post, police killings claim the lives of over a thousand people every year in the United States (not including deaths at the hands of border agents). Black and Brown community members are killed at much higher rates than anyone else. They include the high-profile killings of Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many more. Few officers are ever charged for unjustified killings, and even fewer are convicted because access to justice is fraught with obstacles. The greatest obstacle is how excessive force is defined in the United States. U.S. law condones as “objectively reasonable” force that amounts to torture or excessive use of force under international standards.’ Until and unless the United States’s use-of-force standard changes, the killings by border agents, police, and other law enforcement will continue, and justice will be denied in all but the rare few cases. 

The time is now for the IACHR to weigh in. 

This is a moment of national reckoning for law enforcement in the United States. Talk of reform permeates the U.S. Congress, state legislatures, city halls, and public square, but meaningful accountability mechanisms have yet to appear. That must change. The unabated violence by law enforcement undermines our safety, our humanity, and civilian control over state power. An examination now by the IACHR of the use-of-force standards and accountability mechanisms at play in the Anastasio case and in effect throughout the United States is timely and could help move us forward to protect human rights. 

In border communities, use of force by border agents is on the rise. According to CBP’s own data comparing 2019 and 2022, use-of-force incidents have risen from 592 to 876, even while assaults on officers, which agents claim justifies the force they use, have fallen from 484 to 462. The rise in violence comes at a time when agents at CBP are critical of attempts at reforms, they operate secret social media groups where they make xenophobic, sexist, and racist jokes with few consequences, and the former head of Border Patrol openly threatens rape in response to media reports about his role in the abuse and impunity at the heart of the Anastasio case. 

In the days after Anastasio’s life was taken, while the family was still mourning and the community was reeling, the Border Patrol union openly tweeted, “Lesson learned: Don’t fight with Border Patrol,” and “We don’t fight fair, we fight to win.” This is the attitude of an agency then and now, an attitude that reverberates throughout CBP. If this is the unchecked behavior of the nation’s largest law enforcement agency, what can we expect from other agencies? What can we expect from law enforcement in other countries? 

Now is the moment to hold CBP and other law enforcement in the United States accountable, and point to the reforms that will open a new chapter, one where human rights and life are paramount and protected at all times for all people. We thank the IACHR Commissioners and Executive Secretary for your consideration of our letter in your deliberations. 


International Organizations/Grupos Internacionales 

Al Otro Lado 

Alianza Americas 

Amazon Watch 

American Friends Service Committee 

Artists for Amazonia 

Border Angels 

Border Kindness 

Center for Victims of Torture 

Al Otro Lado 

Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim 

Espacio Migrante 

Frontera de Cristo 

Fundación para la Justicia (FJEDD) 

Hope Border Institute 

Human Rights Watch 

International Mayan League 

International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) 

Kino Border Initiative 

Latin America Working Group (LAWG) 

Palestinian Youth Movement Vancouver 

Refugee Health Alliance 

School of the Americas Watch Educational Fund 

Unified US Deported Veterans 

Voices from the Border 

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) 


Mexico Organizations/Grupos en México 

Alma Migrante, A.C. 


Casa del Migrante, A.C. 

Coalición Pro Defensa del Migrante, A.C. 

Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción, A.C. 

Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración (IMUMI), A.C. 


United States - National Organizations/Organizaciones Nacionales en los EE. UU. 

Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus 

African Diaspora for Good Governance 

American Civil Liberties Union 

Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO 

Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) 

Border Network for Human Rights 

Bridges Faith Initiative 

Center for Gender & Refugee Studies 


Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP) 

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces 

Defending Rights & Dissent 

Doctors for Camp Closure 

Drug Policy Alliance 

Franciscan Action Network 

Freedom for Immigrants (FFI) 

Government Accountability Project 

Haitian Bridge Alliance 

Human Rights First 

Immigrant Legal Resource Center 

Immigration Equality 

Immigration Hub 

Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Council for Social Justice 

Japanese American Citizens League 

Jobs With Justice Education Fund 

Justice In Motion 

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) 

Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium 

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns 


MPower Change Action Fund 

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd 

National Immigrant Justice Center 

National Immigration Law Center 

National Immigration Project (NIPNLG) 

National Justice For Our Neighbors 

National Latino Research Center 

National Lawyers' Guild 

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights 

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice 

OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates 

Partnerships for Trauma Recovery 

Progressive Labor Alliance 

Project On Government Oversight 

Quixote Center 

Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United 

Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Justice Team 

Southern Border Communities Coalition 

Sunita Jain Anti-Trafficking Initiative 

Tsuru for Solidarity 

United We Dream 

Veterans For Climate Justice 

Veterans for Peace 

Witness at the Border 

Women's Refugee Commission 


United States - Regional Organizations/Organizaciones Regionales en los EE. UU. 


Activist San Diego 

AILA San Diego Chapter 

Alliance San Diego 

American Federation of Teachers, Local 1931 

Another Gulf Is Possible Collaborative 

Arizona Justice For Our Neighbors 

Arizona Palestine Solidarity Alliance 

Asian Solidarity Collective 

Association of Raza Educators 

Austin Region Justice for Our Neighbors 

AZ Immigration Alliance 

Border Patrol Victims Network 

Border Workers United 

Borderlands for Equity 

Buen Vecino 

California Central Valley Journey for Justice 

California Coalition for Women Prisoners 

California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice 

California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC) 

California Physicians Alliance (CaPA) 

Casa Familiar 

Causa Justa :: Just Cause 

Center for Justice & Reconciliation at PLNU 

Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative 

Centro Cultural de la Raza 

Centro Del Inmigrante 

Children's Defense Fund-California 

Chula Vista Partners in Courage 

Coalición de Derechos Humanos 

Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) 

Comité Cívico del Valle 

Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice 

Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance (MoGo) 

Community Asylum Seekers Project 

Community United Against Violence (CUAV) 

Comunidad de Apoyo San Diego 

Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance 

Council of Equity Advocacy San Diego 

CSA San Diego County 

Cville Immigrant Freedom Fund 

Dorothy Day Catholic Worker, Washington DC 

DRUM - Desis Rising Up & Moving 

Ella Baker Center for Human Rights 

Employee Rights Center 

Faith Coalition of La Mesa (CA) 

Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) 

Grassroots Leadership 

Harbor Institute for Immigrant and Economic Justice 

Humane Borders, Inc. 

Immigrant Defenders Law Center 

Indivisible San Diego Persist 

Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice 

Interfaith Welcome Coalition - San Antonio 

Jakara Movement 

Jewish Family Service of San Diego 

Justice For Our Neighbors North Central Texas 

La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) 

LifeLong Medical Care 

Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition (LBIRC) 

Mainers for Humane Immigration 

Maternal and Child Health Access 

Mosques Against Trafficking 

New Hampshire Conference United Church of Christ, Economic Justice Mission Group

New Mexico Dream Team 

NorCal Resist 

North County Equity and Justice Coalition 

North County LGBTQ Resource Center 

Orange County Equality Coalition 

Orange County Justice Fund 

Orange County Rapid Response Network 

Our Roots Multi-Cultural Center 

Palomar Unitarian Universalist Fellowship 

Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans 

Pilgrim United Church of Christ, Carlsbad CA 

Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California 

Pink Crescent 

Promotores Comunitarios del Desierto, Eastern Coachella Valley 

Proyecto Azteca 

Rise Up San Diego 

Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network 

Samaritanos Sin Fronteras 

San Diego Chicano/Latino Concilio on Higher Education 

San Diego City College Department of Chicano/a/x Studies 

San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council 

San Diego County Coalition on Education 

San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium 

San Francisco Public Defender's Office 

SB County Immigrant Legal Defense Center 

Secure Justice 

SEIU United Service Workers West 

Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) 

Social Justice Collaborative 

South Bay Forum 

South Bay People Power 

Southern California Immigration Project 

St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, Tucson, AZ 

Street Level Health Project 

Texas Civil Rights Project 

The Children’s Partnership 

The Green Valley/Sahuarita Samaritans 

The Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective 

The San Diego LGBT Community Center 


Tucson Samaritans 

Unión del Barrio 

Unitarian Universalist Refugee and Immigrant Services and Education 

UNITE HERE Local 30 

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135 

Universidad Popular 

University of San Diego's Mulvaney Center 

Voces Unidas (Rio Grande Valley) 

Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center 


United States - Student Groups/Grupos Estudiantiles en los EE. UU. 

Abolish Stanford 

La Alianza Law Students of Latin American Descent 

La Raza Law Journal 

Sexual Violence Free (SVFree) 

Stanford Code the Change 

Stanford Decarceration Collective 

Stanford Students for Affordability 

Stanford Students for Workers' Rights 

Students for Environmental & Racial Justice

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