US Supreme Court sidesteps cross-border shooting dispute

Kidnapped Border Patrol agent says he feared for family

Border Patrol saves undocumented immigrant from dying in South Texas heat

Graffiti on a wall near the street corner in Nogales where Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, was fatally shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent, carry the messages "never forget", "no more deaths" and "justice for Jose Antonio".

The Texas case may still have a long way to go in the courts, but the ultimate outcome could affect a similar case in Nogales, where a Border Patrol agent in the USA fired across the border in 2012 and killed a Mexican youth. Because the court resolved the case on constitutional grounds, it did not decide whether Hernandez's family could sue for a tort violation using a so-called Bivens remedy, named for the case that found an implied right of action to sue federal officials who violate the constitutional ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

The Supreme Court said the 5th Circuit should not have granted qualified immunity, however, because it based its decision on a determination that Hernandez was an alien with no voluntary ties to the United States.

Mesa shot and killed Hernandez in a concrete-lined ditch bed of the Rio Grande river, which separates El Paso, Texas, from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

An off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent in Texas tells investigators he got into a vehicle with two men who then allegedly kidnapped and attacked him to get them away from his family.

The Hernandez family wants to sue that agent, saying he violated the teen's constitutional right. Hilliard, the Corpus Christi lawyer representing Hernandez's family, warned against creating "a unique no-man's land - a law-free zone in which USA agents can kill innocent civilians with impunity".

Lawyers for Hernandez's family argued that the situation of the often vague United States border was different, and that Mesa had no way to know if Hernandez was Mexican or American - so that he could not claim immunity from a lawsuit on the basis of the victim's nationality.

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But the Supreme Court ruled that the circuit court was wrong to say Mesa had immunity, saying there was no way for Mesa to know before he fired that Hernandez was not a US citizen or on USA soil when he was killed.

A Court of Appeals had ruled that the border patrol agent, Mesa, had qualified immunity, which means he can not be sued.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch did not take part in the opinion.

The Supreme Court said the lower court made a mistake when it found Mesa had qualified immunity.

The teenager's family appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in October 2016, the high court agreed to consider the case.

The court also stated that another case that it decided last week, Ziglar v. Abbasi, could have a bearing on Hernandez v. Mesa, which the lower court would not have considered.

Border Patrol agents from the Tucson, Arizona, sector rescued an illegal immigrant who was going in and out of consciousness and gave him medical need until he was medevaced to a local hospital. Agents are now urged, if at all possible, to move out of range of thrown projectiles.

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