Over the course of the last three weeks, police have gunned down three unarmed Mexican immigrants in three separate incidents. The shootings in Washington state, Texas and California come just a few months after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and on the heels of a national conversation about the relationship between law enforcement and minorities.
Still, the deaths of Mexicans Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Ruben Garcia Villalpando and Javier Canepa Diaz did not spark social unrest or public condemnation the way Ferguson and Staten Island did. In those instances, massive demonstrations and extensive media coverage prompted an investigation by the Department of Justice.
The outcome of that investigation might be subject for debate, but it was more than what happened in Pasco, Grapevine and Santa Ana. In these cases, there were no significant protests, no major news coverage (Spanish-language media included), and so far, no government inquiries.
Here’s the difference. For many Latinos, there is an obvious deterrent to protest: those who are undocumented will not stand up to police in riot gear and face the risk of being kicked out of their home and separated from their families, especially given the administration’s record number of deportations. To make matters worse, political leaders are not paying close attention. Not even Latino leaders in Congress.
The immigration debate continues to center on the political and electoral implications of reform. But perhaps if we start highlighting these recent shootings, we can shift the conversation towards the fact that immigration reform is a matter of basic civil rights.
Over the past 9 years border patrol agents and other U.S. authorities have killed a total of 76 Mexicans, according to Mexico’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Now, some of these serious human-rights violations resulting from the criminalization of undocumented immigration have spread from the border to other parts of the country. A criminalization significantly furthered by an incendiary, right-wing rhetoric.
It's often said we are a country of immigrants, but also a country of laws. Many in the Latino community are asking what happened to rule of law in the killings of these three Mexican men.
The lawyer involved in the case of Canepa Diaz — the Mexican national shot in Santa Ana — said this is the first time in his career that he's witnessed a case in which police killed a man and then publicly admitted they don't know why.
Those unanswered questions, the abundance of impunity, the timid media coverage and the lack of response by the federal government can only mean one thing: undocumented immigrants in this country are disposable.
There’s no question that all minority groups are targeted by police brutality. But undocumented immigrants have an additional disadvantage: they can’t speak up for their rights.
They are the silent minority. They don’t expect justice and they can’t demand it.
Enrique Acevedo is a Fusion contributor and anchor of Univision's late night edition.