A U.S. Border Patrol agent who killed a teenager when he fired across the border from Texas into Mexico cannot be sued in U.S. courts by the Mexican teen’s family, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The unanimous ruling was issued by the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, reversing most of an earlier 2-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the court. The border agent’s lawyer said the opinion vindicated his client.
An attorney for the teen’s family said they haven’t decided whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. shot 15-year-old Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca in June 2010. U.S. investigators said Mesa was trying to arrest immigrants who had illegally crossed into the country when he was attacked by people throwing rocks. Mesa fired his weapon across the Rio Grande, twice hitting Hernandez Guereca.
The shooting occurred near a bridge between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua
Originally the family’s lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court, where a judge ruled that they couldn’t sue in the U.S. because the shooting’s effects were “felt in Mexico.” The three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit later held that Mesa could be sued, but Friday’s decision by the full court overturned that finding and upheld the district judge.
The full court rejected the family’s contention that Mesa’s immunity from a civil suit was overcome by the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right of “the people to be secure in their persons,” or by Fifth Amendment protections against deprivation of life without due process of law.
I understand the legal reasoning, but it still sucks. The United States claims “universal jurisdiction” for crimes outside its own borders, but at the same time rejects the authority of international criminal courts to try its own citizens. I don’t see how Officer Mesa will ever face justice, but the Hernandez family deserves some. Short of calling the incident an act of war, it was an aggression against a sovereign nation by an armed agent of a foreign government. At a minimum, the Republic is owed a formal apology (I’d settle for the U.S. Ambassador abjectly handing over a hand-written apology by Barack Obama to Enrique Peña Neito… and Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca’s mother) AND the Hernandez family is owed a large cash settlement. AND… Officer Mesa should never be anywhere near the Juarez again.