WASHINGTON – The Trump administration says families of Mexican teenagers who were shot to death by American border agents should not be allowed to sue for damages in U.S. courts.
The administration is telling the Supreme Court in a brief filed Thursday that the justices should take up and resolve the issue in favour of two agents who fired shots across the U.S-Mexican border that killed the teenagers.
In both cases, U.S. Border Patrol agents say they fired their guns because they were being attacked by people throwing rocks on the Mexican side of the border.
One incident occurred on the border between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez. In the other, an agent in Nogales, Arizona, shot a 16-year-old in Mexico 10 times.
The federal appeals court in San Francisco has allowed a lawsuit to proceed in the Arizona case against agent Lonnie Swartz.
An appellate panel in New Orleans said agent Jesus Mesa Jr. could not be sued by the family of the teenager he killed.
In both cases, the losing side appealed to the high court.
The Justice Department said the differing appellate outcomes presents a clear split that the nation’s highest court should settle.
The administration said the San Francisco court had “erroneously” extended the right to sue in American courts over the death of a citizen of another country on foreign soil.
The Justice Department made its filing at the court’s request. The justices often will ask for the government’s views on pending legal issues.
If the justices agree to hear the case, arguments would take place next term, with a decision likely by June 2020.
In December, federal prosecutors decided not to try Swartz a third time for killing Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez in 2012. Swartz was acquitted of second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter charges in the first two trials, but jurors deadlocked over a lesser charge.
The Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges against Mesa and also rejected a request to extradite the agent for trial in Mexico in the killing of Sergio Adrian Hernandez Guereca in 2010.