Borders

Lawsuit Heats Up in Border Shooting of Teen

|

I'm not the U.S. government's number-one fan right now.

Back in June of 2010, Sergio Adrian Hernández Güereca, a 15-year-old kid who happened to live on the Mexican side of the international border, was shot to death by U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr. The official story is that Sergio and his buddies were throwing rocks at the Border Patrol officer, and that he responded with gunfire — and that's OK, says the U.S. government. Not everybody agrees. The Mexican government, the ACLU and other civil rights organizations have joined a lawsuit filed by the boy's parents against the U.S. government.

Says the ACLU:

The government is claiming that Hernandez, a Mexican citizen, enjoyed no legal protections under the U.S. Constitution.  The ACLU brief argues that the Constitution necessarily limits border agents' authority to use excessive force and that the victim was across the border does not eliminate constitutional constraints.

"It would be a dark and dangerous precedent for the courts to hold that federal agents can kill people with impunity merely because they are just across the border and not U.S. citizens," said Sean Riordan, staff attorney of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. "Sergio's family deserves their day in court to ask that the government take responsibility when its agents abuse their power and kill without justification."  The amicus brief argues the government's rationale is "staggering" and would mean that U.S. agents could intentionally shoot Mexican or Canadian citizens across the border with no judicial review when victims sought accountability. 

 The brief, filed by the ACLUs of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and San Diego & Imperial Counties, and by the national ACLU's Immigrant Rights Project, refutes the government's argument that the Hernandez family has no claim to protection since Sergio was "extraterritorial," or outside of U.S. territory and thus outside of the Constitution's protections.

Whatever your take on border politics, even if you think that the line on the map is some sort of barrier holding back barbarian hordes, it strikes me as a harsh position to maintain that there should be no legal recourse if an agent of the U.S. government decides to take potshots across an international border. And for those of us who care about such things, it's also contrary to the founders' quaint old ideas about inherent individual rights being, you know, inherent in everybody.

Shooting kids for throwing rocks seems like a move that should come under scrutiny, and maybe carry some consequences.

Advertisement

NEXT: Alternative Currencies Rise as the Eurozone Crisis Worsens

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The government is claiming that Hernandez, a Mexican citizen, enjoyed no legal protections under the U.S. Constitution.

    My copy of the Constitution refers mostly to persons, not citizens, in the Bill of Rights.

    But its been pretty clear for a long time that there are other editions of the document floating* around Washington.

    *probably face-down.

    1. Depends on the amendment. Only the fifth is expressly applied to “persons” in general. The Second, Fourth, Ninth, Tenth, and the tail end of the First are applied to “the people” which presumably means citizens only.

      The Third, Seventh, Eighth, and beginning of the First don’t mention who it applies to.

      The Sixth applies to “the accused”.

      So, you might want to double check your own copy against the National Archives’, because there’s a lot more “the people” than “persons” there.

  2. “The official story is that Sergio and his buddies were throwing rocks at the Border Patrol officer, and that he responded with gunfire…”

    Holy crap! That’s the OFFICIAL story? Man, I would think that if that is what really happened then the official story would be something like “the Border Patrol believed they were being fired at by armed drug runners…”

    But if they’re going with stone throwing as official, I wonder how bad the real story is.

    1. This is consistent with the Justice Department’s memorandum on not caring about dead Mexicans.

      $20 says Maher ends up going ape-shit over this while remaining in full ostrich pose concerning F (insert forbidden ampersand) F

    2. We have long since passed the point where the government even bothers to give lip service to the rule of law. The only part of the camel outside the tent is its shit.

      1. Then what is that smell in here?

  3. I believe that Niven has a law for this.

    1. More of a catch-phrase.

  4. Look it was a good shoot….in addition to rocks the officer was pretty sure the kid was carrying flatware.

  5. seems like a stupid argument for the Border Patrol to make. wouldn’t they prefer for it to be illegal for Mexicans to shoot them across the border?

    1. I’m pretty sure this is a one-way-only thing. Think of the apocryphal French saying: “This animal is vicious – when attacked, it defends itself.”

    2. Pretty sure that if BP agents throw rocks at Mexican troops, they’re justified in shooting back.

      1. I’m pretty sure that’s an uncivilized and retarded opinion.

        1. You’re wrong. Ever been hit in the head with a thrown rock?

          1. I’ve been hit with various rocks, as well as hit by cars. None of those situations were dire enough to shoot someone. Considering we haven’t heard about any Border Patrol injuries as a result of the “stoning”, I’d say this situation wasn’t dire enough either.

            1. Guess I’ve heard more than you. There have been plenty of injuries. Some injuries have been very severe. There are videos proving this. Videos of gangs heaving rocks as hard as they can at some isolated agent on foot. Not you and your friend playing-type shit. It’s no game, it’s retaliation over drug busts and such. This all came out years ago when the story actually broke.

  6. I should point out that L.Ron Hubbard was stripped of his command because he fired into Mexican territory – even though he didn’t kill anyone…

  7. Sounds like murder to me. The agent in question should be remanded over to Mexican authorities to stand trial.

  8. “The government is claiming that Hernandez, a Mexican citizen, enjoyed no legal protections under the U.S. Constitution.”

    Is this the same govt that argues from various angles about illegals having rights?

    It is a tax except when it is a penalty except when it is a tax. The duplicity of this administration is truly breathtaking.

  9. “It would be a dark and dangerous precedent for the courts to hold that federal agents can kill people with impunity merely because they are just across the border and not U.S. citizens,”

    You left out the part about rock throwing.

    Question: How do Israeli soldiers respond to rock throwing Palestinian kids?

    1. Is this supposed to be an argument supporting the murder of a teenager in retaliation for throwing rocks? Nyah, nyah, Israel did it first?

      1. when it’s not a teenager but someone years older and when one of those rocks conks someone in the head, do you think that then some retaliation would be okay? Throwing rocks at guys who carry guns along the border is not very sharp.

        1. It’s Niven’s first law.

          Niven’s Laws (from Known Space)

          1.)

          A)Never throw shit at an armed man.
          B)Never stand next to someone who is throwing shit at an armed man

        2. I believe the appropriate response would be to throw a rock back at them. Not shoot them. But that’s just me.

          1. Thrown rocks can kill. They can certainly cause pain and injury. Throwing rocks at people armed with guns makes you eligible for a Darwin Award.

        3. Did I say that ANY retaliation would be inappropriate? No, I said FUCKING KILLING HIM was.

      2. Looks like open borders folks have found their own Trayvon. Complete with 5-years-old pictures.

  10. I guess I don’t understand why anyone, including the ACLU, has to argue this case from a perspective of “constitutional constraint”.

    Take his:

    The government is claiming that Hernandez, a Mexican citizen, enjoyed no legal protections under the U.S. Constitution.

    So had Hernandez been on the US side of the border, according to the US Government’s logic, he could be shot just as readily because he’s not a citizen. More importantly, any foreigner here, not protected by some kind of “diplomatic immunity” could also be shot. Canadians visiting Bellingham on a summer afternoon, etc.

    Couldn’t this simply be looked at from a purely procedural standpoint?

    Is a border patrol agent have the right to shoot an unarmed foreign person under any circumstances?

    No

    Can a border patrol agent shoot an unarmed person who’s assaulting him?

    Maybe

    Can a border patrol agent shoot an unarmed person who’s assaulting him with rocks from across the border.

    Probably not

    Can the border patrol agent step twenty feet back to safety?

    Yes

    Now can the border patrol agent shoot a person throwing rocks from the other side of an international border?

    Strongly leaning no.

    1. Meh, after reading this more carefully a second time, I guess I kind of get it.

      The “constitutional constraint” is that these rights belong to people, not citizens.

      But I guess what bugs me about the logic is that, let’s pretend for a minute that we agreed that the constitution doesn’t apply to non-citizens. As the blogposts suggests, there’s no scrutiny when a foreigner is shot?

    2. You do realize you’re quoting the ACLU summary of the govt’s position, not the govt’s position.

      Even the summary doesn’t say that they say his non-citizen status means he has no rights under the Constitution. It just juxtaposes the two.

  11. I think that invisible barrier was meant to keep our barbarians in.

  12. The BP should call the Mexican police. If the Mexicans can’t or won’t control them send in the cavalry.

    1. Wars have started for much less. Simpler solution is to just back off twenty feet.

  13. They should have claimed they thought he was a dog. And dogs, as we know, are to be shot on sight by law enforcement officials. Nothing more dangerous to a cop than a dog.

    1. Good call. Dogs don’t even know there’s a border there*, so they’re especially dangerous.

      *Except for border collies, of course.

    2. If dogs are truly as lethally dangerous as cops like to claim, every cop would have a holstered chihuahua on his belt, not a pistol.

  14. At least he didn’t end up with exactly the same fate as esequiel hernandez. Oh, wait.

  15. More pseudo-libertarian horseshit. The Border Patrol has, in fact, been backing off and adopting other non-confrontational, non-lethal measures to protect themselves. Check out the video:

    Caught On Tape: Border patrol agents attacked with rocks

    Rocks can kill, morons.

    I suggest that J.D. Tuccille extract his head from the ACLU’s ass every now and then and take a good look around. Either that, or take his “citizen of the world” routine south of the border for a while.

    1. Keep up the good fight, CID. Just don’t expect to win around these parts; Tucille’s BS is what WeWantToBelieve? so it will be accepted uncritically.

    2. Che, with all of the excitement of your impotent huffing and puffing you failed to articulate a coherent argument. Unless your argument is “Rocks can kill, morons.” which could of been made without all of the vicious name calling.

      1. His argument is that BP isn’t a bunch of crazed murderers out to kill poor innocent Mexican teens who hang out at duck ponds.

        And that rocks are, in fact, lethal weapons, not the trifles that Tucille is making them out to be.

        If you’ve got a problem with impotent huffing and puffing, why in the world are you reading stuff written by the bunch at Reason anyway. Nobody in power gives a shit what any of them say.

        1. The only thing that matters here is that they shot a kid who threw a couple of rocks. Did any of the agents even get injured? No.

          1. “a couple of rocks”? Where are you getting that from?

            You don’t have to be injured to have the right to self-defense, either.

            1. I really, really hope you don’t shoot someone for throwing rocks at you, but I’d like to see you try that in a court of law. “But your Honor, I HAD to shoot the kid! He was throwing ROCKS at me, it was SELF-DEFENSE!” See how far you get with that one.

              1. If it’s a situation where I had the opportunity to retreat, you’re probably right, since rocks are a short-range weapon.

                BP agents with a sworn duty to arrest border violators don’t have the option to retreat during an arrest.

                1. They also can’t go across the border to make an arrest – the kid was across the border so they had no jurisdiction and were NOT making an arrest. So by your own logic, they should have retreated. Also, if they wanted to retaliate, why did they not fire warning shots? The US Navy is trained to fire one shot across the bow of an unidentified boat approaching before they simply kill everyone. It was poor judgement on the part of the BP agents. BP agents have zero jurisdiction on the Mexican side of the border and are NOT allowed to cross the border in uniform or armed – no exceptions. They should have retreated and called the Mexican authorities to have them arrested.

    3. You know what’s a lot more deadly than a few rocks? Bullets. You know when rocks are the most deadly? When a mob of people is tossing large ones at you, rather than when a teenage kid is taking potshots with pebbles.

      1. a teenage kid is taking potshots with pebbles.

        Here we go making up our own facts to suit our arguments.

        Hey, what if you had kids throwing rocks that had been sharpened into ninja stars at you? Would you be allowed to defend yourself?

        1. Here we go making up our own facts to suit our arguments.

          You’re right, we shouldn’t make up facts to supports our arguments. But it’s OK if you do, I guess.

          His argument is that BP isn’t a bunch of crazed murderers out to kill poor innocent Mexican teens who hang out at duck ponds.

          And that rocks are, in fact, lethal weapons, not the trifles that Tucille is making them out to be.

          1. What fact are you claiming that I’m making up?

            I’m fucking sick of you people making vague accusations of dishonest arguing/fallacies and then disappearing when I ask you for specifics.

  16. Shooting kids for throwing rocks seems like a move that should come under scrutiny, and maybe carry some consequences.

    Too bad the BP agent wasn’t a tough guy like JD Tucille, who is invulnerable to thrown rocks. I can believe it, his skull certainly seems thick enough when it comes to being impervious to logic.

  17. Oh, and by the way, Tucille seems to have “forgotten” to mention that the rocks were thrown at the agents while they were attempting to arrest an illegal border crosser. So it’s not like they could just run away.

    1. And it’s sure not like they could have ANYTHING but shoot a kid, right? You make me sick, you piece of shit.

      1. What specifically do you think the BP agents should have done?

        1. Worn helmets?

          Fired over the rock throwers’ heads to get them to scatter?

          Used rubber bullets?

          Had additional people with riot shields to protect against thrown stones?

          1. Oh come the fuck on. First, unless they have full-on blast shield helmets they’re still vulnerable to head injuries, not to mention the rest of their bodies. Also you don’t want to be patrolling the desert in the Southwest with a full-face helmet on all day.

            The second and third options aren’t sufficient because if they know you’re afraid to fire real ammo AT them they don’t give a shit and will continue throwing rocks.

            Additional people with riot shields also isn’t feasible unless you want to increase the size of the BP immensely to saturate the border.

  18. I have come to the conclusion that Tulpa has gone full statist retard.

    Holy shit man. There are at least a few different ways to respond to punk ass teenagers chucking rocks at you and shooting them is down near the bottom.

    And where the fuck is the logic in I can’t step back 20 feet and flip this punk the bird?

    1. To retreat they would have had to let the person they were arresting escape back over the border. Which is exactly what the rock throwers are trying to get them to do.

      You, too, are curiously vague on what you think the BP agents should have done. Keep in mind the agents are not allowed to cross the border themselves, so many of the ways you’d deal with rock throwers in everyday life are not available to them.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.