A federal appeals court has ruled that the family of a Mexican national shot dead across the U.S.-Mexico border cannot sue the U.S. Border Patrol agent who pulled the trigger.
In 2010, Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. shot and killed Mexican teen Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca. According to reports, Mesa fired across the border when he was attacked by a group throwing rocks. The gunfire hit Hernandez Guereca.
According to the Associated Press, Hernandez Guereca’s family first attempt at a lawsuit in U.S. District Court was unsuccessful, with the judge ruling that the family could not sue in the U.S. A three judge panel on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district court’s ruling. However, the full Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has unanimously overturned an earlier ruling by a three-judge panel of the court.
The AP reports that the court ruled in Mesa’s favor because it disagreed with the family’s argument that the actions violated the teen’s 4th and 5th Amendment rights, the right of people “to be secure in their persons” and due process rights, respectfully.
A 4th Amendment claim cannot be asserted by a Mexican citizen on Mexican soil with no significant connection to the United States, the appeals court ruled.
While there were differing rationales expressed in concurring opinions on whether Mesa violated Hernandez’s 5th Amendment rights, the court was unanimous in concluding that such rights could not have been clear to the agent. “No case law in 2010, when this episode occurred, reasonably warned Agent Mesa that his conduct violated the Fifth Amendment,” the unsigned majority opinion said.
In a statement the family’s lawyer Marion Reilly charged that the court ruled it is okay to kill based on nationality.
“So the Court has ruled that it was appropriate for the agent to kill an unarmed teenager based on his nationality — don’t kill him if he is a U.S. citizen, but fire away if he is a Mexican.”
The lawyer added that they have yet to decide whether or not to appeal to the Supreme Court.