Mexicans are outraged over the death of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, the unarmed man who was shot by police in Pasco, Washington, last week.
“They killed him like a pig,” Zambrano-Montes’s father, Jesus Zambrano, told Mexican media.
Zambrano-Montes, one of 16 children, immigrated to Washington in 2004. He is said to have been throwing rocks at police and cars before he was shot; Pasco has put the officers involved on administrative leave pending an investigation.
But it’s unlikely that all the anger will translate into “another Ferguson,” as one Washington official warned it might. The reason is simple: undocumented migrants face limitations when protesting; the risk of deportation is too great.
“Mexicans in the United States cannot react like African Americans did in Ferguson,” says Mexican political pundit and Univision anchor Léon Krauze. “There are many who are not protected by the law. And when you protest and face a cop as an undocumented person, the consequences are infinitely higher.”
Adds Krauze, “We have learned, through intimidation and fear of deportation, to remain silent.”
Others, however, think this could be a moment when people start to lose that fear.
“On one hand there’s no question people who are undocumented are deterred from protesting. But on the other hand, I think they have recently shown tremendous amounts of courage, especially young undocumented people who are coming out and doing this in a way that attracts a lot of media attention,” said Paul Apostolidis, a professor of politics at Whitman College in Washington. “People in Pasco are outraged right now and they might be willing to take more chances.”
There are some 230,000 unauthorized immigrants in Washington state, according to a 2012 report by the Pew Research Center, and government census data shows a quarter of Pasco residents were born outside of the U.S.
South of the border, tensions continue to simmer following the death of Zambrano-Montes, a Michoacan native who was shot dead by Pasco police officers on Feb. 10.
“This is an injustice!” said José Antioco Calvillo, a primary school teacher and friend of the family. “We are farmworkers, we go over there in search of a life.”
“I’ll never forget the face of my brother,” said younger sibling Juan Zambrano-Montes who helped borrow $8,000 from family members and friends to pay the coyote who smuggled his sibling into the United States. “We’re still working to pay this back,” he said.
The case of Zambrano-Montes has become a cause célèbre in Mexico. Lawmakers have condemned the incident and President Enrique Peña Nieto has pledged his government’s full support to the family of the victim. Mexican media has slammed the shooting with loud and emotional headlines, while news anchors and political pundits are urging Mexico’s government to do more.
Video courtesy of Televisa and Fusion contributor Carlos Loret de Mola
Reporting by Televisa’s Juan Francisco Santa Anna