August 7, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO – A federal appeals court issued a landmark ruling today confirming that the Constitution does not allow unjustified cross-border shootings and rejecting arguments that Customs and Border Protection agents cannot be held liable for their actions at the border.

The case, Rodriguez v. Swartz, was brought on behalf of the family of Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, a Mexican teenager in Nogales, Sonora, who was killed by Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz. The American Civil Liberties Union is among those representing the family in the case. The agent unsuccessfully sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, prompting an appeal.

The Ninth Circuit wrote, “It is inconceivable that any reasonable officer could have thought that he or she could kill [Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez] for no reason. Thus, Swartz lacks qualified immunity.”

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project, argued the federal appeals court case and had this reaction:

“The court made clear that the Constitution does not stop at the border and that agents should not have constitutional immunity to fatally shoot Mexican teenagers on the other side of the border fence. The ruling could not have come at a more important time, when this administration is seeking to further militarize the border.”

Counsel are the ACLU, ACLU of Arizona, ACLU of San Diego, Luis Parra, Roberto Montiel Law Offices, and Morrison and Foerster LLP.

The ruling is at: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/rodriguez-v-swartz-ninth-circuit-order

Additional information is at: https://www.aclu.org/cases/rodriguez-v-swartz

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