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Do Asylum Seekers Have Constitutional Protection?

Posted on in Immigration

Stamford immigration asylum lawyer

In the upcoming Supreme Court case Hernandez v. Mesa, the high court will determine whether asylum seekers have Fourth Amendment protections. What makes this case particularly interesting is that it involves a federal agent causing harm to an asylum seeker while the asylum seeker was in another country. If SCOTUS rules in favor of the plaintiff, then asylum seekers will be granted additional legal protection. However, such a ruling could also negatively impact the ability of immigration enforcement offers to maintain order.

The Background of the Case

In 2010, a United States border agent shot and killed a 15-year-old asylum seeker. The incident occurred while the border agent was on the United States side, and the asylum seeker was on the Mexican side of the border. According to the agent, the 15-year-old was throwing rocks at him and his fellow agents to distract them from a smuggling operation. Feeling threatened, the agent fired his weapon and unfortunately struck the asylum seeker. The boy’s family, on the other hand, claim that their child was playing a game with his friends of running up to the border fence then running back. Regardless of whether this situation was self-defense or a mistake, the loss of young life is tragic.

The boy’s family has since sued the officer, because his fourth amendment rights were violated. There was also a request to extradite the officer to Mexico to stand trial there, but the Obama administration denied the request. The case was heard in the fifth circuit court and made its way to the Supreme Court in 2017. SCOTUS sent the issue back to the fifth circuit court, claiming that such an issue was better to be decided by them. An appellate court found that the boy’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated, since the boy was on foreign soil at the time. However, the ninth circuit court has ruled differently in a similar case, thus forcing SCOTUS to take up Hernandez v. Mesa again to resolve the dispute.

The Implications of the Case

If the plaintiff wins, then this would allow for federal agents to be sued for violating the constitutional rights of foreigners, even if such a violation occurred in another country. When the case initially came to the court in 2017, Associate Justice Thomas opined to clear the agent of charges. However, Justices Ginsberg and Breyer argued that the Fourth Amendment covered the boy. However, this case was heard before the appointment of Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, so it is unclear what SCOTUS will decide.

Contact a Stamford, CT Immigration Attorney

Immigration laws face constant change. To better understand these laws and how any changes might affect you or your loved ones, you should consult with the knowledgeable Darien immigration lawyer at Gonzalez Law Office, LLC. For more information, contact our offices today at 203-323-1440.





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