In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the parents of a Mexican teenager who was shot dead over the border by a Border Patrol agent cannot sue in U.S. courts.
Or, as the Associated Press characterized the decision, the high court voted “to close the courthouse door on the parents,” who argued that their son, a Mexican national, had his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights violated by an unreasonable use of excessive force.
Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca was shot and killed by Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr., in 2010 — Mesa was on U.S. soil in Texas when he fired the fatal shot at the 15-year-old, 60 ft. away on the southern side of the border in Ciudad Juarez.
Mesa said there was a group of suspected illegal immigrants in a culvert that runs along the border who were throwing rocks at him.
Justice Samuel Alito cited strong border security and international relations issues in writing for the court, Roll Call reported.
“Since regulating the conduct of agents at the border unquestionably has national security implications, the risk of undermining border security provides reasons to hesitate” about allowing the parents to sue in American courts, Alito wrote.
Alito also noted that the Justice Department did not charge Mesa, having concluded that he had not violated Customs and Border Protection policy or training.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the liberal jurists who disagreed, said that the parents’ lawsuit does not endanger border security or U.S. foreign policy.
Ginsburg said the teen’s exact location in the culvert when he was shot “should not matter one whit” when the United States has jurisdiction to govern a Border Patrol agent’s conduct in this country, according to Roll Call.
“It scarcely makes sense for a remedy trained on deterring rogue officer conduct to turn upon a happenstance subsequent to the conduct — a bullet landing in one half of a culvert, not the other,” she wrote.
“Rogue officer conduct” sounding eerily like something you might expect to hear from former President Barack Obama.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Mark Qualia said at the time of his death that Guereca had a history of involvement with human smuggling and was on a list of repeat juvenile offenders.
His father contended that his son was a straight-A student, and his family claimed he was “simply running across the culvert, touching the fence on the U.S. side, and then running back across the border.”
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Lee Gelernt, who represents another 15-year-old shot by a border agent, took a shot at President Trump over the court’s ruling.
“The gravity of this ruling could not be clearer given the Trump administration’s militarized rhetoric and policies targeting people at the border,” Gelernt said in a news release, according to Roll Call.
“Border agents should not have immunity to fatally shoot Mexican teenagers on the other side of the border fence. The Constitution does not stop at the border,” he said.
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