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Legal Review: Police Claim Immunity After Accidentally Shooting Undocumented Immigrant

By Immigration Attorney Natalia Segermeister

A controversial ruling in Southhaven, Mississippi has gotten the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union involved.

The ruling claims that a police officer who shot undocumented immigrant Ismael Lopez should not be charged, on the basis that Lopez lacked any Constitutional rights due to his non-citizen status. In this case, the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments are in question.

Ismael Lopez was from Mexico and had been deported twice to Mexico. Since his second removal, he had returned to the United States. According to court documents, Lopez had prior arrests and an outstanding warrant in Mexico. These details were introduced in court documents because his criminal past as well as his immigration status, the city argued, did not afford Mr. Lopez any constitutional rights. This was the final decision of the court.

The decision of the court concluded that there is nothing to be done in this case, due to Ismael Lopez’s lack of U.S. citizenship at the time of his death. In fact, the court also stated that the Lopez family has no jurisdiction for a case, in which case the U.S. has no obligation to take action, due to the lack of a relationship between Mr. Lopez and the United States.

A grand jury decided that no criminal charges should be brought against the police officer and the city involved in the shooting. Claudia Linares, Mr. Lopez’s widow, was understandably angered by this decision. As a result, she has filed a civil rights action lawsuit on the basis that Mr. Lopez’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens’ right against unreasonable searches and seizure, while the Fourteenth provides equal protection for all citizens under the law.

Linares’s lawyer, Murray Wells, has told the media that he is disgusted by the claim, stating that this specific interpretation of the U.S. Constitution is, in fact, unconstitutional. Linares is seeking $20 million in damages for Mr. Lopez’s wrongful death.

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