The gun was fired in the U.S., but the bullet stopped 60 feet away in Mexico in the head of a 15-year-old boy named Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca. Border patrol agent Jesus Mesa Jr. pulled the trigger six years ago in the wide concrete culvert that separates El Paso from Juarez, Mexico. Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will consider whether the Constitution gives Hernández’s parents the right to sue Mesa in U.S. courts for killing their son, the Washington Post reports. The hearing comes amid a time of increasing tension and controversy over how the U.S. polices the daily churn along the border, where essential international commerce takes place alongside narcotics trafficking and human smuggling.
Courts have struggled to deal with the national security and foreign policy implications of the case, and the Supreme Court’s precedents. If Hernández had been killed inside the U.S., the case could proceed. Or if he had been a U.S. citizen, it would not have mattered that Mesa was on one side of the border and he was on the other. The courts so far in Hernández’s case have said the Constitution does not reach across the border — even 60 feet — to give rights to those without a previous connection to the United States. To find otherwise, Judge Edith Jones wrote for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, would “create a breathtaking expansion of federal court authority … and would have severely adverse consequences for the conduct of American foreign affairs.” Attorneys for the parents say there must be recourse for killing an unarmed teenager playing with his friends. Halting the case before it is even tried, their brief tells the Supreme Court, erects “a legal no-man’s land in which federal agents can kill innocent civilians with impunity.”