Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca
Almost seven years ago, I stood at the border in a circle of women, children, and men, singing, praying, burning sage and copal, remembering 15 year old Sergio Adrian Guereca Hernandez and his grieving family. Guereca Hernandez had just been killed by a U.S. Border Patrol office while the teenager was standing on the Mexican side of the border. I remember it was summer; the air was heavy. Our hearts were heavy.
Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the case. The Trump administration argues that the parents have no right to sue since their son was on Mexican soil. The family's legal team argues that he was killed by an agent standing on US territory in an area that is the responsibility of both nations. The SCOTUS is divided: conservative justices don't believe the parents have a right to sue. Liberal justices believe that they do.
The 4-4 tie could cause the SCOTUS to wait for the confirmation of the ninth justice to re-hear arguments and make the ruling.
The shooting caused anger, pain, disbelief on both sides of the border. According to witnesses, Sergio was hanging out with a group of his friends, running up and down the cement culvert that divides the two nations. When the officers caught one of the boys, Sergio moved back up the culvert to the Mexican side to watch, approximately sixty feet away from the agent. The Border Patrol officer, Jesus Mena, Jr., said that people were throwing rocks at him. Mena, standing on the U.S. side of the border, shot Sergio in the face, killing him. Mena was not charged with the killing; Border Patrol agents felt justified in using lethal force against rock throwers. The video above does not show Sergio threatening the agent.
The Obama administration refused a request to extradite Mena to face charges in Mexico. When Sergio's parents tried to sue, a lower court ruled that they could not sue because their son was standing on Mexican territory and not protected by the 4th amendment.
Even on the U.S. side the border, we are well-aware that government power is expanded, often outside of our Constitutional rights, on the border. In fact, in 1953 the Department of Justice defined an area 100 miles from external boundaries as an area where the 4th amendment does not necessarily apply. (Watch for a future post on the 100 mile rule.)
Sergio's life was cut short as he stood on the dividing line between the United States and Mexico. After years of waiting, I pray for justice for him and his family. Just like that summer night all those years ago.