When do foreigners have rights under America’s constitution?

DISPUTES that reach the Supreme Court tend to be hard cases—conflicts concerning government power or individual rights that confound and divide judges serving on lower courts. Hernández v Mesa, a case revolving around the tragic death of a Mexican teenager on the Mexican border at the hands of an American border-patrol agent, is certainly such a case. After losing their district court hearing, the boy’s parents won their initial three-judge appeal at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals before losing again when the entire Fifth Circuit reconsidered the panel’s ruling. On February 21st, the Supreme Court went into the thicket.

Hernández’s topsy-turvy procedural path may seem surprising in light of the facts. In 2010, an unarmed 15-year-old, Sergio Hernández, was standing on Mexican soil when Jesus Mesa, an American border-patrol agent, killed him. Mr Mesa says the teenager had smuggled immigrants and, along with a few friends, was throwing rocks. But Mr Hernández’s parents insist—as video evidence appears to confirm—that he was just playing with friends. Running up the incline between the two countries (a concrete-paved “culvert” over the…Continue reading
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