On February 21, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Hernandez v. Mesa. In 2010, Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca, a fifteen-year-old Mexican national, died after being shot near the border between El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico by Jesus Mesa, Jr., a U.S. Border Patrol Agent. Hernandez’s parents, who contend that their son was on Mexican soil at the time of the shooting, sued Mesa in federal district court in Texas, alleging violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. After hearing the case en banc, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ultimately ruled in favor of Mesa, concluding that Hernandez could not assert a Fourth Amendment claim and that Mesa was entitled to qualified immunity on the parents’ Fifth Amendment claim.
There are three questions now before the Supreme Court: (1) whether a formalist or functionalist analysis governs the extraterritorial application of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unjustified deadly force, as applied to a cross-border shooting of an unarmed Mexican citizen in an enclosed area controlled by the United States; (2) whether qualified immunity may be granted or denied based on facts – such as the victim’s legal status – unknown to the officer at the time of the incident; and (3) whether the claim in this case may be asserted under Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents.
To discuss the case, we have Steven Giaier, who is Senior Counsel for the House Committee on Homeland Security.