Borders: Where our sovereignty and human rights end

The blog I read explained how on June 7, 2010, fifteen-year-old Sergio Hernandez, a Mexican national, and his friends were playing in a cement culvert that separates Ciudad Juarez, Mexico from El Paso, Texas in the United States. The boys amused themselves with a game: they would run up to the U.S. barbed wire fence that separated Mexico from the U.S., touch it, and then run away from the fence. While they played, Jesus Mesa, a U.S. federal border patrol agent, appeared on his bicycle and detained one of the boys. Observing this incident, Hernandez retreated beneath a pillar. Standing on the U.S. side, Mesa then aimed his gun across the border and fired at least twice; one of the shots hit Hernandez in the face. Hernandez was pronounced dead by Mexican police shortly thereafter. Shortly, Hernande’z parents sued Mesa for civil penalties, arguing that he violated Hernande’z rights under the 4th amendment of the U.S constitution.

The issues

The 4th amendment of the US constitution states “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” One of the aims of this amendment is to protect people’s rights from an unreasonable intrusion by the government. Isn’t Mesa shooting Hernandes an intrusion of his rights? Or do they simply not apply because Hernandes is not a US citizen, if so, is this just?

What this case reveals is that the US do not acknowledge situations or violations that happen beyond their borders. Is it just that the US official is not getting prosecuted when shooting a Mexican in Mexican soil? 60 feet should be enough for justice to apply.

Does a Mexican national standing 60 feet south of the border when he was killed by an U.S agent have any protection by the US constitution rights? Sadly, no. Hernandez can only be protected if he is an US citizen. Could it be argued that this is a narrow approach? Borders are more than a physical boundary between countries; they are also a containment of legal rights, where we have to be accountable for its violations and where a States sovereignty ends and begins. The US has a paradigm- in which constitutional protection is limited to non-citizens suffering violations by the US government on non US soil. Hernandez lawyers described the area where he was shot as a no mans land- where US officials can kill whoever without a consequence.

What can be done?

We need to broaden the narrow approaches that borders have-individuals should get protection and be accountable their actions. To obtain this, we need to expand our limited concept of the border as a technical, physical object, and instead look to the ways in which state sovereignty exerts control over individuals and spaces. If we can achieve a more broad border sovereignty we could attack the legal loop holes where there are no basic  human rights. It is not right that still to this day, we have this legal loop holes where we ignore our human rights, and we become insensitive to the actions from the state.

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