The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a Mexican boy killed at the border near Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.
A group of boys playing chicken along the U.S.-Mexico border had expected an adrenaline rush. Running, ducking, and diving into ditches, the teenagers’ antics caught the attention of a federal agent on patrol. Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca was sixty feet away from Border Patrol officer Jesus Mesa when he was killed by a single shot to the head.
Judges in the United States threw out Guereca’s parents’ lawsuit; American officials opted not to prosecute Mesa, arguing that he couldn’t be tried for an act which was committed across an international boundary. When the matter was escalated to the Obama administration, they too swept it under the rug, refusing to entertain any talk of extradition.
Below is footage from Univision which was uploaded to YouTube. Please note that some may find the video disturbing:
The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that they would hear the parents’ appeal – the last resort Guereca’s mother and father have for bringing justice to their son’s death.
Mesa and his lawyers claim that the Border Patrol agent was surrounded and being pelted with rocks. Cell phone footage of the incident shows Guereca peeking his head out from behind a pillar moments before being shot. Mesa had apprehended one of the other teens and says he didn’t use his firearm until stones starting flying through the air. Before he could be struck and possibly injured, Mesa began shooting.
Since Guereca was killed on the Mexican side of the border, some lawyers for the federal government have argued that allowing his parents to file a lawsuit could allow the victims of drone strikes in the Middle-East and South Asia to do the same.
A similar case was filed in 2012, when US Customs and Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz shot Jose Rodriguez of Sonora, Mexico. Swartz also claimed that the 16-year old he killed had been throwing rocks. Unlike Mesa, prosecutors have been seeking to charge Swartz with second-degree murder. The court proceedings and subsequent lawsuit sparked calls for oversight and reform by the American Civil Liberties Union, who allege that the Border Patrol has a problem with disproportionate use of force.
The Guereca family’s lawyer, Robert Hilliard, believes the implications of the courts tossing the case aside could be enormous. If the Supreme Court shuts down the appeal, Hilliard says they would be saying “that 100% of the conduct of a domestic police officer in the United States is unconstrained by the U.S. Constitution.” The Washington Post reported the quote as well as that the Guerecas are seeking at least $10 million in damages and reparations.
The official stance of the Trump administration is that aliens injured abroad shouldn’t be entitled to sue the United States or any of its constituent agencies.
While the Border Patrol has tried to tighten its policy and regulate the use of deadly force, there are still dozens of similar incidents currently under investigation.
A court precedent which allows foreigners injured by US personnel overseas could have the potential to damaging the national integrity and cash coffers. However, the implication that a bullet fired from American soil can end the life of a Mexican citizen without repercussion is damning.
A nation of laws must abide by its own. The lives of Jose Rodriguez and Sergio Hernandez Guereca are no less precious because they were born south of a border. When an American agent turns the breathing body of a young boy into a corpse, then the American government needs to accept responsibility for its mistakes.
A nation of laws must not yield in the face of a crime which was began on its own land but came to rest in another.