Supreme Court: Foreign nationals can’t sue BP over shootings

A Border Patrol agent inspects a water drainage tunnel that spans from Nogales, Arizona, into Mexico. Photo by Josh Denmark.

UNITED STATES — The Supreme Court on Tuesday said foreign nationals can’t sue Border Patrol over shootings — even deadly ones.

The court was deliberating on Hernández v. Mesa, a case that stems from a deadly 2010 shooting of a Mexican teenager.

Sergio Adrián Hernández Güereca, 15, was on the Mexican side of the border in Ciudad Juarez when Jesus Mesa Jr., a Border Patrol agent in El Paso, fatally shot him. Hernández’s family later sued, arguing Mesa had violated their son’s due process and other constitutional rights.

The Supreme Court disagreed. In a 5-4 decision, they said U.S. federal legal protections didn’t apply to incidents in Mexico or beyond, holding up a decision also made by lower courts.

Rather than making legal claims in the United States, concerned parties in the United States and Mexico should resolve cross-border incidents like this one “through diplomacy,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a majority opinion. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, John Roberts and Clarence Thomas agreed. Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

The decision could have implications for other such killings, NPR reported — including that of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, then 16, who was fatally shot in Mexico after throwing rocks at a Border Patrol agent in Arizona.

Lee Gelernt, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who was representing in the Hernández family, decried the decision.

“Border agents should not have immunity to fatally shoot Mexican teenagers on the other side of the border fence,” he said in a statement. “The Constitution does not stop at the border.”