Things That Matter

Border Patrol Murdered A 15-Year-Old Boy In Mexico And Now The Supreme Court Will Hear The Case

The Supreme Court of the United States will hear a Mexican family’s case. In 2010, Sergio Hernandez was murdered by a United States border patrol agent — on Mexican soil along the southern border. His parents want to sue the man who shot and killed their teenage son, Jesus Mesa. 

SCOTUS will hear the case to decide if the family can sue, which will just begin the beginning of an uphill battle as the family will still have to prove Sergio’s constitutional rights were violated. Mesa, on the other hand, has claimed immunity as a government officer at work. He argues that there is no law that makes him liable and that foreigners murdered on foreign soil cannot sue U.S. officers for damages that occur abroad. 

Sergio Hernandez is killed by a U.S. border patrol agent in 2010.

The 15-year-old was shot to death by the agent as he hid behind a pillar in Mexico, according to CNN. Hernandez was hanging out with friends on a cement culvert that separates El Paso, Texas from Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. 

His parents claim he was playing a game where you cross the border, touch a fence, then run back onto Mexican soil. They believe Mesa arrived during the game and fatally shot their son. 

According to Messa, the boy was throwing rocks at him and he shot him when Hernandez when he refused to stop. The Justice Department did not bring a criminal charge against Mesa in 2012. 

“I want justice. This officer cannot be allowed to continue, because there’ll be another young victim, then another and another,” Maria Guereca told NPR in 2017

According to El Paso Times, the shooting was recorded on a video with a cellphone. There was a great public outcry, including protests in 2010. 

“We are very concerned about the message and the precedent it is sending throughout the border and the nation,” Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights said. “It might be telling us that the actions by the Border Patrol, not only mistreatment and killings, go unpunished and there is no accountability.”

Hernandez’s family says his constitutional rights were violated.

According to Quartz, the family believes his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unconstitutional governmental searches and seizures was violated — his death being the “seizure” in this case.  

The first time the family tried to have their case heard by SCOTUS it was remanded to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled that the family could not sue citing “special factors” like national security and diplomatic concerns. However, the family petitioned again and got it. They argued that suing the agent would not challenge law enforcement policies, immigration law or affect the United States’ diplomatic relationship with Mexico. 

Lawyers of Mexico filed a “friend of the court brief,” according to CNN, where they argue that US border agencies have killed dozens of individuals at the border and pled the justices to take the case. 

“When agents of the United States government violate fundamental rights of Mexican nationals and others within Mexico’s jurisdiction, it is a priority to Mexico to see that the United States has provided adequate means to hold the agents accountable and to compensate the victims,” they wrote. 

The solicitor general insists the family cannot sue. SCOTUS will finally weigh in. 

Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in court briefs that, “imposing a damages remedy on aliens injured abroad by US government officials would implicate foreign-policy considerations that are committed to the political branches” and that inserting the courts into matters of international diplomacy would, “risk undermining the government’s ability to speak with one voice in international affairs.”

While Francisco believes the court should hear the case because lower courts have been split on the matter, he is hoping SCOTUS will affirm the lower court’s decision to block the family from suing. 

Mexico argues SCOTUS must take the case to address excessive force at the border. In a brief, they remind of the justices of international human rights obligations. 

“The decision below failed to take account of the binding international human rights obligations that the United States has undertaken by treaty to Mexico and its nationals. Those include, among others, the obligation to respect the fundamental right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life and the right to an effective remedy when fundamental rights have been violated,” the government stated.

“A nation’s obligations to respect human rights do not stop at its borders but apply anywhere that the nation exercises effective control.”

While it has taken nearly a decade, SCOTUS will now decide if the actions of individuals carried out abroad have consequences on American soil. The outcome will set a new precedent and will have serious outcomes for how agents treat immigrants in the future. 

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The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico


The Little-Known Underground Railroad That Ran South to Mexico

Tyrone Turner / Getty Images

Latinos make up the largest minority group in the country, yet our history is so frequently left out of classrooms. From Chicano communities in Texas and California to Latinos in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and the Underground Railroad – which also had a route into Mexico – Latinos have helped shape and advance this country.

And as the U.S. is undergoing a racial reckoning around policing and systemic racism, Mexico’s route of the Underground Railroad is getting renewed attention – particularly because Mexico (for the very first time in history) has counted its Afro-Mexican population as its own category in this year’s census.

The Underground Railroad also ran south into Mexico and it’s getting renewed attention.

Most of us are familiar with stories of the Underground Railroad. It was a network of clandestine routes and safe houses established in the U.S. during the early to mid-19th century. It was used by enslaved African Americans to escape into free states and Canada. It grew steadily until the Civil War began, and by one estimate it was used by more than 100,000 enslaved people to escape bondage.

In a story reported on by the Associated Press, there is renewed interest in another route on the Underground Railroad, one that went south into Mexico. Bacha-Garza, a historian, dug into oral family histories and heard an unexpected story: ranches served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to Mexico. Across Texas and parts of Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas, scholars and preservation advocates are working to piece together the story of a largely forgotten part of American history: a network that helped thousands of Black slaves escape to Mexico.

According to Maria Hammack, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin studying the passage of escapees who crossed the borderlands for sanctuary in Mexico, about 5,000 to 10,000 people broke free from bondage into the southern country. Currently, no reliable figures currently exist detailing how many left to Mexico, unlike the more prominent transit into Canada’s safe haven.

Mexico abolished slavery a generation before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

Thirty-four years before Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, in 1829, Mexican President Vicente Guerrero, who was of mixed background, including African heritage, abolished slavery in the country. The measure freed an estimated 200,000 enslaved Africans Spain forcefully brought over into what was then called New Spain and would later open a pathway for Blacks seeking freedom in the Southern U.S.

And he did so while Texas was still part of the country, in part prompting white, slave-holding immigrants to fight for independence in the Texas Revolution. Once they formed the Republic of Texas in 1836, they made slavery legal again, and it continued to be legal when Texas joined the U.S. as a state in 1845.

With the north’s popular underground railroad out of reach for many on the southern margins, Mexico was a more plausible route to freedom for these men and women.

Just like with the northern route, helping people along the route was dangerous and could land you in serious trouble.

Credit: Library of Congress / Public Domain

Much like on the railway’s northern route into Canada, anyone caught helping African-Americans fleeing slavery faced serious and severe consequences.

Slaveholders were aware that people were escaping south, and attempted to get Mexico to sign a fugitive slave treaty that would, like the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 that demanded free states to return escapees, require Mexico to deliver those who had left. Mexico, however, refused to sign, contending that all enslaved people were free once they reached Mexican soil. Despite this, Hammock said that some Texans hired what was called “slave catchers” or “slave hunters” to illegally cross into the country, where they had no jurisdiction, to kidnap escapees.

“The organization that we know today as the Texas Rangers was born out of an organization of men that were slave hunters,” Hammack, who is currently researching how often these actions took place, told the AP. “They were bounty hunters trying to retrieve enslaved property that crossed the Rio Grande for slave owners and would get paid according to how far into Mexico the slaves were found.”

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As Republicans Move To Fill Supreme Court Seat, Julián Castro Says Democrats Should Consider Nuclear Option

Things That Matter

As Republicans Move To Fill Supreme Court Seat, Julián Castro Says Democrats Should Consider Nuclear Option

Gabriela Bhaskar / Getty Images

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, progressives are struggling to figure out their next move. Republicans have made it clear they don’t care about precedent or even following their own made up rules, and plan to attempt to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible.

Some Republicans have even gone as far as saying they’ll vote to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee even if he loses the November election, in a lame duck session of Congress.

This has Democrats in overdrive trying to figure out their game plan and how they’ll respond to Republican efforts to once again steal a Supreme Court seat.

Julián Castro says that Democrats should consider packing the court if they come into power come January.

In an interview with Buzzfeed’s News O’Clock podcast, this year’s only Latino candidate for president said that Democrats should consider adding more justices to the Supreme Court if Senate Republicans rush to confirm a justice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg. His announcement is a reversal from his stated position during the presidential campaign.

“For many of us, that wasn’t our preference, but the fact is you have Mitch McConnell not abiding by, not working in good faith under the Constitution. … If you have that kind of abuse of the system, then I think that, yeah, Democrats should be open to different ways that we can stave off draconian changes to our fundamental rights,” he said.

During last year’s presidential primaries, Castro said that he “would not pack the court” if we were elected president, but with reproductive rights, voting rights, and healthcare hanging in the balance, he now believes Democrats should consider structural reform to the court.

“When those are the stakes, and Mitch McConnell is the one who’s abused this system, then yeah, I think we need to be open to considering either adding more justices or other structural reforms that will prevent this kind of abuse in the future,” he said.

Nothing in the Constitution limits the number of justices that sit on the Supreme Court.

Credit: Sam Gateaux / Getty Images

Adding more justices to the Supreme Court, or “packing the court”, has become widely popular among progressives as they see it as a last resort to restoring equality to the court. And the only way in writing wrongs committed by Republican Senate leadership.

Obviously, one concern is that if the Democrats increase the court size when they have power, that the Republicans could expand it again when they regain power. And we would have a never ending saga.

But as the Democrats are once again outplayed and outmaneuvered by the GOP, many say it’s a risk worth taking.

Castro also warned that Biden was losing his traction with Latino voters.

Meanwhile, Castro has also expressed concern that the Biden campaign isn’t doing enough to win the support of Latino voters.

“I believe the campaign gets it in that they understand they have work to do,” Castro said, adding that he thinks that Biden will pick up Latino support by Nov. 3 because the campaign is now investing in voter registration, bilingual messaging across platforms, and tailored outreach to different Latino communities, rather than treating them as one unified voting block.

“The Latino community too often is invisible, it’s an afterthought,” said Castro, who was housing secretary under Barack Obama. “Even though it’s going to be the largest non-white voting group in 2020. I think in every way in American society … there’s this image of the Latino community as though everybody got here five minutes ago.”

Joe Biden’s campaign has “to make sure that they are doing everything they can to reach out to a community that already has one of the lowest rates of voting, that needs to be brought into the fold”, Castro said.

With 29 million eligible voters in 2018, or about 12.8% of the total, Latinos voted more than two-to-one for Democrats, according to Pew Research. That was a much lower rate than for the party’s key bloc, African Americans, who went 90%-9% for Democrats.

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