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US high court takes up case of Mexican shot by border patrol

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Washington (AFP)

The US Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review for the second time a lawsuit over the case of a Mexican teen shot dead inside Mexico by a Border Patrol Agent firing from the US side of the frontier.

The family of Sergio Hernandez, who was 15 when he was killed by US agent Jesus Mesa on June 7, 2010, has been seeking compensation over the death in a lawsuit.

The case has political significance amid a surge in undocumented migrants crossing the border and President Donald Trump's call for border officials to take tougher action to deter them.

The case, likely to be argued in the fall of this year or early 2020, could set a precedent for other cases of shootings of migrants on either side of the border by US officials.

Hernandez and three friends had been playing in the dry riverbed of the Rio Grande that separates the Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez from its Texan neighbor, El Paso.

The youths were racing up the concrete embankment to touch the barbed-wire fence on the US side of the border, and racing back down, when Hernandez was shot in the head by Mesa.

Mesa later said Hernandez had refused to obey his order to stop the game and had thrown rocks at him. The teen's family say Hernandez posed no danger.

After the Justice Department ruled that Mesa had acted within his responsibilities, Hernandez's family sued the official for damages.

They argued that US law protects people against disproportionate use of force by law enforcement, and that Mesa had violated Hernandez's rights under the US constitution.

The federal district court in Texas rebuffed the lawsuit, and a regional appeals court supported that decision, on the grounds that the victim was a Mexican national and died on Mexican territory, and thus had no claim of protection under the US constitution.

In 2017 the case went to the Supreme Court, which ordered the appeals court to rehear it considering certain legal precedents.

The appeals court again ruled the family had no basis to sue, and the family appealed to the high court once again.

This is not the only case of its kind. The Mexican government alleges that dozens of migrants or Mexican citizens have been killed by US officials on the border in recent years.

A similar lawsuit over a Border Patrol agent's 2012 shooting of a 16 year old girl on the Mexican side of the border with Arizona was approved last year in a separate appeals court.

The government then appealed that case to the Supreme Court, where it will likely be on hold for a decision in the Hernandez case.

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