The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Tuesday the case of the death of a 15-year-old Mexican boy shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent in 2010, to decide whether the family can sue for his death. Legally, the case is particularly tricky as the shooting took place across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Sergio Hernandez was shot more than six years ago by U.S. Border Patrol agent Jesus Mesa. Hernandez's family, who is still seeking justice, says he was playing with friends around a border fence between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez when he was shot. The case will be examined in Washington on Tuesday by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hernandez's parents, Maria Guadalupe Guereca and her husband Jesus Hernandez, had originally filed suit in U.S. District Court, on the basis that Mesa had violated Sergio's Fourth Amendment protection against unjustified lethal force and his Fifth Amendment right to due process of law.
But their case was dismissed when a judge ruled that those protections do not apply to the unmarked border where Hernandez was killed. As a Mexican citizen, his death would have to be adjudicated in Mexico. And while Mexican authorities did indict Mesa for murder, the United States has refused to extradite him. They have warned that throwing out the family’s lawsuit could harm diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Hernandez’s family is seeking justice once more across the border. While a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans initially ruled that Mesa could be sued, that decision was overturned by the full court.
That’s left the young Mexican’s parents to wonder whether, as their lawyers argue, their son died in "a unique no man's land — a law-free zone in which U.S. agents can kill innocent civilians with impunity."
The Supreme Court must now decide whether any or all of the U.S. Constitution's guarantees applied to the deceased teen.
"If you lose yourself in the Supreme Court and deny legal rights to Sergio's parents, that's practically giving the green light to a massacre of Mexicans," Richard Boren, a volunteer from the Border Patrol's Network of Victims Civil union that supports relatives of victims of similar incidents, told AFP.
Guereca has just two photographs left of her 15-year-old son. The rest were taken away by her children. They did that so she isn’t pained by his memory. But Guereca still takes out her son’s clothes every month to wash them. And every week you can find her at his grave site, laying fresh flowers on his tombstone.
“Justice,” she pleads in a choked voice when she recalls his tragic death.
Even seven years after the incident, Guereca is not giving up hope.
"We were always very close," the 59-year-old mother told AFP. "But look at what life is like, it took (him) away forever.”