While Washington Stalls, Another Life Lost on Border

While Washington Stalls, Another Life Lost on Border

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The story of Anastasio ‘Tacho’ Hernandez had all the elements to be an immigrant story with a good ending, beating the odds thanks to hard work and determination, but it ended up being another kind of immigration story—no less real: the tragic kind, the kind that could have been prevented.

Hernandez came to the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant at age 16, attracted by the lure of work in the north and fleeing the lack of opportunities in the south. Over 26 years in this country, he worked hard in construction, while also creating a family. He practically had it all, except residency papers. One traffic violation got him deported. ‘Tacho’, like any other father in that situation, could not tolerate the separation and tried to return like he did decades ago. This time he was captured by immigration officers. The reports say that the 42-year-old man resisted arrest and was struck and tasered, resulting in his death.

It goes without saying that this death at the hands of immigration officials should be investigated. The authorities are responsible for the safety of their detainees. In this case they must answer the many questions raised by this death.

At the same time, this event depicts the fragile situation to which millions are exposed. They have spent years building their lives with honesty and dignity in the United States, contributing to the common good, and yet remain undocumented. These workers, given their degree of integration into American society, are potential candidates for legalization under comprehensive immigration reform. However, given the lack of leadership among Democrats and the politics of resentment among Republicans, rather than coming out of the shadows, they are treated the same way as someone who entered the country yesterday.

How many ‘Tachos’ must there be before reform takes place? How many parents must be separated? How many of them must die in the desperate attempt to return to their families?

Hernández’s life was more American than Mexican, based on the years gone by and the roots laid down. But for the United States, he was just one more immigrant. According to the system, his many years in the country were worth nothing.

Hernández’s natural destiny under these circumstances should have been legalization, not death. For many in Washington, comprehensive immigration reform can wait one, two, or three years until the time is right. ‘Tacho’ was willing to wait, but he wasn’t given the chance.