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Federal response satisfies border killing protesters

The Houston Chronicle July 18, 1997

Copyright 1997 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- A delegation from the South Texas town of Redford protesting a border shooting by Marines said they were satisfied with the reception from federal officials.

"My impression is that we did get a lot of good response" from meetings with members of Congress, the White House drug czar and officials of the Pentagon and Immigration and Naturalization Service, said resident Diana Valenzuela.

Although no policy changes were announced, "I really believe they are going to try to do something about it," she said in reference to the May 20 killing of 16-year-old Esequiel Hernandez Jr. while he was tending goats near Redford.

The handful of residents, who said their town has 100 people, came to Washington to press for major changes in federal policy, topped by terminating all military operations involving U.S. troops in the U.S.-Mexico border zone.The anti-drug patrol operation that resulted in Hernandez' death involved Marines, in a task force under the supervision of the Border Patrol. The death is under investigation by state and federal authorities.

The Rev. Melvin La Follette said the Redford group met one of its "principal objectives: to show them by presenting our live bodies, that actual flesh-and-blood human beings live on the border and are affected by policy decisions that are made in Washington."

After meeting with the residents' group, he said, the officials will be able to say, "I know now that, even though there aren't very many people there, there are people, United States citizens on the border and perhaps a little bit of attention ought to be paid to their needs and their rights."

The Texas-Mexico border is not totally inhabited by "aliens, terrorists and smugglers" was the message Enrique Madrid wanted to convey."We are not enemies of the United States. We do not deserve to be treated as enemies," Madrid said.

The Redford group members acknowledged no one offered to change national policy due to the killing, but they said they were pleased to be going home with the assurance that Congress will have an investigative hearing in September.

This article copyright 1997 the Houston Chronicle and is reproduced for non-profit educational purposes only.

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