On May 5, 1977, José Campos Torres, a Mexican American Vietnam war veteran, was arrested for disorderly conduct in the predominantly Latinx East End of Houston, Texas. The officers who detained Torres drove him to the Buffalo Bayou, brutally beat him, and pushed him into the water. Before drowning the incapacitated Torres, Officer Terry Denson remarked, “Let’s see if the wetback can swim.” The officers were convicted of negligent homicide and violation of civil rights, yet Judge Ross Sterling sentenced them to only a year and a day in prison, “one of the lightest prison terms possible for the conviction.”
Border policing is designed to exclude Latinx bodies from the American populace and relies on their criminalization and racialization as a distinct and undesirable racial group The universal designation of Latinx individuals as necessarily “illegal” has rendered Latinx communities vulnerable to violent local policing regimes far beyond the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. In many cases, victims have limited recourse to justice and offending officers go unpunished.
Black organizers and artists have understood this violence as symptomatic of broader regimes of racialized policing. In response, they have collaborated with Latinx civil rights efforts and expressed their solidarity in song, film, and protest.