Trayvon Martin has been on my mind, and because he’s been on my mind, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez has too. Both were young, unarmed boys of color (17 and 16 years old, respectively) gunned down in 2012 – Trayvon by neighborhood watch volunteer-cum-vigilante George Zimmerman on February 26 in Sanford, Florida, and José Antonio by at least one unnamed Border Patrol (BP) agent on October 10 in Nogales, Sonora.
The connection between Trayvon and José Antonio is one that many folks can’t help but make here in Southern Arizona, but one that is not being made as often outside the borderlands for a number of reasons. In some places, it is cops and vigilantes that pull triggers with impunity, but in the borderlands, in Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, San Diego, Douglas and many other communities, it is the Border Patrol as well. However, behind the security- and enforcement-centric frames that dominate what little coverage there is of the border, stories like that of José and other victims of BP violence can get lost or distorted. If, as many politicians and officials would have us believe, the border is a war zone, isn’t José Antonio just collateral damage, a tragic price to pay for a “secure” border?
The Zimmerman exoneration shocked millions in this country by revealing that Florida state law, at the very least, provides a legal loophole for vigilante violence against people of color. What I want to show here is that there is a comparably terrifying situation in the borderlands, one in which state violence against migrants and Mexican nationals like José Antonio is carried out with almost total impunity and governmental nontransparency.
This is not an effort to direct attention away from Trayvon and toward José Antonio and the Border Patrol…