By Leslie Berestein / Union-Tribune / June 14, 2010
The deaths of two people during confrontations with border officials in recent weeks, one in San Diego and one in El Paso, have pushed an already-heated debate over illegal immigration to the boiling point.
On May 28, Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, 42, was shot with a Taser stun gun by a U.S Customs and Border Protection officer at the San Ysidro border crossing after he resisted agents trying to send him back to Mexico. He later died.
Last Monday, 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Huereca was fatally shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent after a group he was with on the Mexican side of the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez threw rocks at U.S. agents.
John Skrentny, a sociologist and the new director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at UC San Diego, said the tone of the immigration debate has given special significance to the events at the border, with controversy raging over a new immigration law in Arizona and the Obama administration under fire for not overhauling national immigration laws.
“An incident like this, coming into this atmosphere, becomes symbolic,” Skrentny said.
At a San Diego news conference Thursday attended by Hernandez’s family members, an attorney representing the deceased man’s children said an administrative complaint would soon be filed against the Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection. If the federal government rejects the complaint, the family can file a wrongful-death civil lawsuit after six months, attorney Eugene Iredale said.
In Lemon Grove last week, a crowd of about 300 attended the funeral for Hernandez, a father of five who moved to the United States illegally from Mexico as a teen and lived in Encanto.
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