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Trump’s War on Immigrants Has Already Reached the Supreme Court

Posted on Feb 27, 2017

By Bill Blum

    A protest at the Supreme Court over President Trump’s executive orders. (Alex Brandon / AP)

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If you’ve been waiting for President Donald John Trump’s war on immigrants to reach the Supreme Court, your wait is over. The battle has already begun.

No, the conflict hasn’t come to the top court by way of Trump’s high-profile “Muslim ban,” which has been enjoined by a series of lower court decisions, including one handed down on Feb. 9 by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The administration has backed away from its threat to seek immediate Supreme Court review of those unfavorable rulings in favor of revising the ban on narrower terms.

But even before the original travel ban was announced on Jan. 27, the Supreme Court had loaded up its current docket with cases that will have profound consequences for Trump’s war, especially his plans to secure and militarize the border and fulfill his campaign promises of mass deportations.

Two appeals before the Supreme Court stand out in particular. Although both originated well prior to November’s election, the federal government is represented in them now by Jeff Sessions’ Justice Department.

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The first is Hernandez v. Mesa, which was argued last week.

The facts of the case are gut-wrenching: As dusk fell on the evening of June 7, 2010, a group of Mexican teenagers was playing a game in the sprawling concrete culvert that winds between the cities of Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. The actual boundary between the two countries is unmarked but is plotted along the middle of the culvert. Security fences sit atop the culvert on both sides of the divide.

The game, according to subsequently filed court documents, involved the teens daring one another to run up the culvert’s northern incline to the American side, touch the U.S. fence and scamper back down to Mexican territory.

For one of the participants—15-year-old Sergio Hernandez—the game proved deadly. He and his buddies were confronted by U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa, Jr., who was on the lookout for alien smugglers attempting to bring people into the States.

With his handgun drawn, Mesa apprehended one youth by the shirt collar on the American side of the border, then turned in the direction of the others who had run away. He fired his weapon, striking Hernandez in the head from a distance of approximately 60 feet. Hernandez died instantly beside a concrete pillar on the Mexican flank of the culvert.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Mesa claimed that he had been surrounded by Hernandez and the other teens, and that they were throwing rocks at him. Those claims were later disproved by a cellphone video taken by an onlooker. The video, which was aired by both American and Mexican TV outlets, showed no rocks being hurled or any other imminent threats to Mesa’s safety.

Mexican authorities charged Mesa with murder, but the U.S. refused to extradite him. In 2012, the FBI cleared him of criminal wrongdoing. The Justice Department also exonerated him in another investigation of the shooting, finding that Hernandez, despite his age, was a known smuggler who had been arrested twice before in the U.S. on smuggling charges but was allowed to return voluntarily to Mexico without prosecution because he was a juvenile.

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