Judge Rules Family of Mexican Teen Can Sue Border Patrol Agent for Violating His Rights

By Penny Starr | July 14, 2015 | 3:22 PM EDT

U.S. Customs and Border Air and Marine agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents compare notes as they patrol near the Texas-Mexico border, near McAllen, Texas, Sept. 5, 2014. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – A Mexican teen's family can sue a U.S. Border Patrol agent for violating the teen’s civil rights, because the teen is protected under the U.S Constitution’s 4th and 5th amendments, a federal judge in Tucson, Ariz., ruled on Thursday.

The ruling is the latest in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the family of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez who was shot by Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz in 2012 during a rock throwing assault by the teen who was standing on the Mexican side of the U.S. border at the time of his death.

"The court was right to recognize that constitutional protections don't stop at the border and that Border Patrol agents cannot shoot across the border with impunity," ACLU attorney James Lyall told the Associated Press.

Sean Chapman, Swartz’s attorney, sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that Elena Rodriguez did not have constitutional rights, because he "neither came within the territory of the United States nor developed substantial connections with this country to justify its extraterritorial application."

U.S. District Court Judge Raner C. Collins ruled against dismissal, allowing the civil rights case to move forward, according to the AP.

But critics of the lawsuit and the ruling say Collins’ decision is a dangerous one for Border Patrol agents tasked with protecting the often times violent U.S. border with Mexico.
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“That is a very dangerous situation,” Shawn Moran, vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Fronteras Desk, an Arizona public radio website.

“Border patrol agents need to be able to defend themselves against assaults, even when they’re occurring from Mexico.”

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration, told CNSNews.com that the ruling is “bizarre.”

“This is a bizarre interpretation of civil rights protection that this judge is applying in this case, and it’s sure to lead to equally surreal arguments that are going to be made in federal courts that a man in Mexico assaulting a U.S Border Patrol agent is somehow entitled to protections under our Constitution,” she said.

“It makes me wonder if all of the Americans who have been harmed by illegal immigration and the acts of Mexicans who violate our border and threaten the well-being of people who live in the area of the border would be entitled to sue for damages against the Mexican government,” Vaughn said.

“It’s not going to make sense to any American and certainly not to anyone who values the work done by our Border Patrol who put their lives at risk every time they go on duty,” she added.

Swartz has 60 days to appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.



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