Americas

Top US court: Mexican family cannot sue over slain son

Court's five conservative-leaning justices back border officer dissenting opinions called 'rogue'

Michael Hernandez   | 25.02.2020
Top US court: Mexican family cannot sue over slain son

WASHINGTON 

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday the parents of a Mexican teen fatally shot by an American border enforcement officer cannot sue for damages.

The court was sharply divided along ideological lines with the panel's five conservative justices siding with the border agent and federal government, and the four liberal judges dissenting.

Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, a 15-year-old Mexican national, was with friends on a concrete culvert that separates El Paso, Texas from neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in June 2010. The border runs through the middle of the culvert.

Hernandez had just run back on to Mexican soil after crossing the border when he was shot fatally by Customs and Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa who alleges that the teenager was part of an illegal border crossing attempt, and said the youth pelted him with rocks.

Mesa fired the fatal shot while on American soil. Hernandez was struck after he reached Mexico.

Hernandez's parents says their son and his friends were playing a game that involved running back and forth across the culvert, and sought to sue Mesa for violating their son's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, which protect against unreasonable search and seizures and entitles individuals to due process under the law.

Writing for the majority of Supreme Court judges, Associate Justice Samuel Alito said the case poses "foreign relations and national security implications" that should be dealt with by Congress, not the courts.

"Since regulating the conduct of agents at the border unquestionably has national security implications, the risk of undermining border security provides reason to hesitate," Alito wrote.

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in the dissenting opinion, challenged the majority's opinion that the matter should be left to the federal legislature, saying, "I resist the conclusion that 'nothing' is the answer required in this case."

"Rogue U.S. officer conduct falls within a familiar, not a 'new,' Bivens setting," she said referring to Mesa and the court case the parents sought to sue the agent under. "Regrettably, the death of Hernandez is not an isolated incident."


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