24 August 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Undocumented Teen Commits Suicide in Jail — Cops must be held accountable

A 17-year-old migrant student of Clear Lake High School who was apprehended by cops after an illegal left turn, committed suicide in jail less than 48 hours later. Excerpts from the Chron.com article follows:

Arturo Chavez’s back was flush against a 7-foot partition for the cell’s shower. A blue blanket was twisted into a noose, with one end wrapped around his neck, the other tied to a shower head. […]

It may never be known what swept over Chavez, who illegally emigrated from Guatemala four years ago and spent much of his time trying to improve his English and working to send money home.

All he had made for himself in the U.S. seemed to hang in the balance as Chavez was locked up at the police station and awaiting transfer to county jail.At one point, when the holding-cell door was opened, Chavez bolted for freedom, according to a police report.

With officers running behind, the 5-foot-3-inch Chavez made it outside and scrambled up a chain-link fence, but was grabbed by the feet.

The wire atop the fence ripped into his hands.

In the scramble, he was shocked twice with a taser and hit multiple times with a baton, according to police.

Houston attorney Randall Kallinen said the officers used excessive force to apprehend Chavez.

“He had been severely beaten,” said Kallinen, who added that a head injury could bring on suicidal thoughts — a mix worsened by solitary confinement. Results of an autopsy are pending.

Compassion aside, rabid nativists and their supporters are showing their disregard for humanity once again by posting their hateful and ignorant comments in discussions over his death. Consider this one by MsTexass:

Our fine police department did their job and I am thankful to know they are protecting our streets. Being Illegal in America should = NO RIGHTS, NO JOBS, NO NOTHING

Since when is it the job of law enforcement to use excessive force on teenagers, STUDENTS, who are not yet adults? Arturo Chavez was not yet 18, meaning he had not begun to accrue illegal presence in the United States, which by itself, is not even a crime. His fake ID, insurance and evasion from law enforcement does not add up to the punishment of death. And contrary to the wishes and beliefs of anti-migrant nativists, an ‘illegal alien’ has civil rights in the United States. If you want to cite the rule of law at every turn and that ‘illegal is illegal,’ you should also be prepared to hear that “the 14th Amendment is the 14th Amendment.” How redundant?

Consider the case of former U.S. border patrol agent Santiago Perez who just pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of undocumented immigrants, admitting that he pistol-whipped an unarmed man and tried to force a confession from another by forcing him to his knees and putting a gun to his head. Chron.com reports:

Perez faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $500,000 at his November sentencing. He has been released on a $50,000 bond.

The case against Perez dates to Dec. 6, 2006, when Border Patrol agents pursued a group of illegal immigrants who waded across the Rio Grande near the Falcon Heights port of entry in South Texas.

Perez detained a member of the group, a man from Guatemala, who “was neither armed nor resisted apprehension nor posed a threat to Perez,” according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Perez admitted to striking the Guatemalan in the face, above the left eye, with his pistol.

In the second case, Perez picked up an illegal immigrant on Sept. 14, 2007, from the police department in Premont, Texas, driving him toward a Border Patrol station for processing. Before they reached the station, Perez pulled over and parked in a secluded area, handcuffed the immigrant and took him out of the vehicle.

According to federal prosecutors, Perez told him to kneel down and then started questioning him about smuggling, eventually drawing his gun and putting it to the man’s head. He also threatened to put him “in a hole” if he did not answer his questions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. After the immigrant refused to admit to being a smuggler, Perez put him back into the patrol vehicle and transported him to the processing station.

Courts ruled that Perez violated Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable and excessive force during questioning. For the second case, Perez was also found guilty of violating Fifth Amendment rights to due process.

It MUST be clear that the rights enshrined in our Constitution are not limited to U.S. citizens–they are applicable to ALL PERSONS due to the selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights into the Fourteenth Amendment. So abuse and battery against even an “illegal alien” whom the anti-migration crowd finds ‘sub-human’ and criminal, is a crime that must not go unpunished.

Chavez could probably have had a bright and promising future had it not been for one ‘illegal left turn’ on an unfortunate day. He could have made something of himself with the passage of the DREAM Act. It is truly tragic and utterly despicable that his dreams had to end so abruptly and that his death might just go in vain. His story could have turned out to be a story on any one of my undocumented friends. My deepest condolences goes out to his family — I hope they get justice; I hope we get justice.

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