AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability
of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel


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Immigrants & Immigration Issues

     A naturalized U.S. citizen sued an ICE agent for allegedly issuing an improper immigration detainer against him, and sued the county sheriff and the county for their alleged roles in his detention. The detainer was withdrawn when it was determined that he was not the felon actually sought, as well as being a U.S. citizen, but merely had a similar name to the person sought.The ICE agent had arguable probable cause to issue the immigration detainer, based on the facts known to him at the time, and thus was entitled to qualified immunity. The sheriff was also entitled to qualified immunity, as he did not directly participate in the complained of actions. There was also no basis for municipal or supervisory liability where employees received instructive memorandum and on-the-job training, and the actions in this case could not reasonably be attributed to a defective governmental policy or custom. Mendoza v. Davis, #16-1807, 849 F.3d 408 (8th Cir. 2017).

     The plaintiffs, who were illegal aliens, sought to pursue Bivens civil rights claims against federal border patrol agents who allegedly illegally stopped and arrested them. A federal appeals court, noting that it had not previously extended Bivens civil rights actions to include claims arising from civil immigration apprehensions and detentions, other than those involving excessive force, declined to do so. It further found that the comprehensive rules and remedies found in immigration statutes and regulations precluded "crafting" an implied damages remedy. Allowing claims for damages in this context, which were likely to be minimal, would be unlikely to provide significant additional deterrence to illegal acts, and the court also noted that there were serious separation of powers issues that would be implicated in trying to do so. De La Paz v. Coy, #13-50768, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 7977 (5th Cir.).
     Deputies, after questioning a woman at her workplace, effectively seized her when one of them gestured for her to stay seated because they had found out that there was an outstanding civil immigration warrant for her. This violated the Fourth Amendment, as they needed the express authorization or direction of federal immigration authorities to make such a seizure, but both they and the sheriff were entitled to qualified immunity, since it was not clearly established law that state and local law enforcement officers may not detain or arrest a person on the basis of a civil immigration warrant. Such qualified immunity did not apply to municipal defendants, however. Santos v. Frederick County Board, #12-1980, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 16335 (4th Cir.).
     Federal immigration authorities entered into a $1 million settlement agreement with 22 Latinos whose rights were allegedly violated when agents entered private homes in early morning raids without search warrants looking for immigration law violations. The plaintiffs included U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and some whose immigration status was in dispute. The settlement also requires the adoption of a new policy requiring that agents not enter private homes without search warrants. The settlement also mandates expanded use of Spanish speaking agents who can communicate in that language with occupants of a residence when necessary, and bars the use of evidence obtained in the raids in immigration proceedings. Aguilar v. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, #07-Civ.-8224, U.S. Dist. Ct. (S.D.N.Y. April 4, 2013).
     An Arizona state law made it illegal for a motorist to hire or attempt to hire a person for work from a stopped car that impedes traffic or for a person to be hired in this manner. While the city did have a significant interest in promoting traffic safety, the day labor provision, largely targeting illegal immigrants imposed restrictions on constitutionally protected commercial speech that could be viewed as more extensive than needed to serve that interest. The appeals court upheld a preliminary injunction against the enforcement of that portion of the statute. Valle del Sol v. State of Arizona, #12-15688, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 4425 (9th Cir.).
     Provisions of an Alabama state law creating new state crimes for actions by illegal immigrants in the state (such as seeking work or simply being in the state unlawfully) or actions by others to assist them through employment or transportation were preempted by federal immigration law. The court declined to enjoin, however, provisions of the state law which require officers to determine a lawfully seized individual's immigration status when the officer has reasonable suspicion that the seized individual is unlawfully present in the United States by asking federal authorities for a determination. A similar request is required for any alien arrested and booked into custody. United States v. State of Alabama, #11-14532, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 17516 (11th Cir.)
     A federal appeals court upheld a ruling that provisions of a state statute criminalizing interactions with an illegal immigrant were preempted by federal immigration law. The prohibited transactions were transporting an illegal alien, concealing or harboring an illegal alien, or inducing an illegal alien to enter the state. The ability of the state to criminalize these actions was preempted by federal immigration law presenting a comprehensive framework for regulating illegal immigration.It upheld against a pre-enforcement challenge, however, to provisions of the law authorizing state and local law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of an individual if the officer has probable cause to believe the individual has committed another crime and the individual cannot provide one of the pieces of identification listed in the statute. If the officer verifies that the individual is not lawfully present in the United States, the officer "may take any action authorized by state and federal law," including detaining the person, transporting the person to a detention facility, or notifying the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The law prohibits consideration of "race, color, or national origin" in implementing its requirements "except to the extent permitted by the Constitutions of Georgia and of the United States." It also prohibits investigation into the immigration status of persons who witness or report criminal activity, where the reason for investigation is based on information arising from that contact. Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights v. Governor of Georgia, #11-13044, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 17514 (11th Cir.),
     The U.S. Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling enjoining three major provisions of an Arizona state law attempting to take measures to decrease the impact of illegal immigrants on the state and its residents. Struck down were sections of the statute making it a misdemeanor for an illegal resident to work, making it a misdemeanor not to comply with federal alien registration requirements, and a section authorizing officers to make warrantless arrests of any person believed to have committed an offense making them removable from the U.S. These three provisions were deemed preempted by federal immigration law. The Court did conclude, however, that it had been improper to enjoin a section of the law that requires an officer making arrests, detentions, or stops to make an effort to verify a person's immigration status. The provision could be construed by the state's courts in a manner that did not conflict with federal immigration law and it was premature to enjoin it without allowing the state courts to do so. Arizona v. U.S., #11-182, 2012 U.S. Lexis 4872.
     In a lawsuit claiming that there was a practice of abusive and unlawful raids of Latino homes by agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), high level supervisory personnel were entitled to qualified immunity since the plaintiffs failed to assert any plausible basis to impose liability on them for the purported abuses. Many allegations in the complaint were merely conclusory, and did not adequately set forth a theory of possible liability on the part of the supervisors, such as their knowledge of or acquiescence in unconstitutional conduct. Argueta v. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, #10-1479, 643 F.3d 60 (3rd Cir. 2011).
     Upholding an injunction against the enforcement of portions of an Arizona state statute creating immigration-related state offenses, a federal appeals court found that issuance of the injunction was not an abuse of discretion, and that the trial court properly found that the provisions at issue were preempted by federal immigration law. Provisions enjoined included a requirement that police officers check the immigration status of anyone reasonably suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. U.S. v. Arizona, #10-16645, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 7413 (9th Cir.).
     Ruling in a lawsuit filed by the federal government against the state of Arizona and its governor, a federal judge enjoined the enforcement of a number of controversial provisions of a new state immigration law, S.B.1070, including a requirement that police officers check the immigration status of anyone reasonably suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. The federal government focused on the argument that the enforcement of immigration law is its job and that the Arizona law is therefore preempted by federal law. Other critics of the Arizona law have argued that it will lead to "racial profiling." Other lawsuits are also pending challenging the statute. U.S.A. v. State of Arizona, #CV-10-1413, U.S. Dist. Ct. (D. Ariz. July 28, 2010).
     A woman from China and her husband sued the federal government and a number of officials under the Federal Tort Claims Act, asserting that an asylum officer demanded sexual favors from her in return for assisting with her asylum application. He had the authority to grant her asylum request, eliminating the need for a formal hearing on it. When she refused to allow him to allegedly unzip and remove her pants, he denied her application A federal appeals court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit in part, as the plaintiff failed to establish that there was a specific duty violated under the Fifth Amendment or any evidence that could establish the existence of an unconstitutional policy. It did, however, reinstate an emotional distress claim, and stated that emotional distress suffered from such a request for sexual favors could potentially be proven and constitute an injury separate and apart from battery. The U.S. government is immune under the Federal Tort Claims Act from claims for battery committed by its employees.. Lu v. Powell, #08-56421, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 18368 (9th Cir.).
     In a lawsuit claiming that the government's negligence resulted in the wrongful deportation of the plaintiff's son, brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the U.S. government was protected from the lawsuit by the discretionary function exception of the Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec, 2680(a). Castro v. U.S., #07-40416, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 11241 (5th Cir.).
     Occupants of a van, containing between twelve and fourteen passengers, questioned by an officer following a traffic stop, claimed that he violated their civil rights by asking about their immigration status. The appeals court found that it was not clear that the brief questioning on the issue by the officer or the few minutes it took him to receive a response from immigration had resulted in the unreasonable extension of the time of the stop, or that he was required to have independent reasonable suspicion to make a brief inquiry into immigration status. The officer was entitled to qualified immunity on civil rights claims arising from asking the plaintiffs' status and contacting immigration, as well as requiring that the van go to the local immigration office, particularly as it appeared that many passengers in the van essentially admitted to being in the country illegally. The officer was also entitled to qualified immunity on claims under the Rhode Island Racial Profiling Prevention Act. Estrada v. Rhode Island, #09-1149, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 2390 (1st Cir.).
     An intermediate California appeals court has upheld summary judgment for the defendants in a lawsuit challenging a Los Angeles Police Department policy barring officers from initiating action with the sole objective of discovering the immigration status of an individual, or arresting anyone for illegal entry into the U.S. The plaintiff was unable to show any instances where an officer was disciplined for violating the policy, barring an "as applied" challenge to the policy. There was no indication that police were prevented from voluntarily contacting federal immigration authorities in order to determine a person's immigration status. The court also rejected a facial challenge to the policy, finding no inevitable conflict between it and a federal law, 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1373, which invalidates any state or local restrictions on voluntary exchange of information with federal immigration personnel, since only a hypothetical" conflict was presented. The court ruled that the policy was not preempted by federal law, but that a California state statute governing law enforcement cooperation with the federal Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.(ICE), Pen. Code Sec 834b, was itself so preempted. That statute says that California law enforcement agencies "shall fully cooperate" with ICE regarding any arrestee suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. This statute is preempted as an impermissible state regulation of immigration, the court stated, Sturgeon v. Bratton, #B209913, 2009 Cal. App. Lexis 967 (2nd Dist.).
     A California taxpayer sought an order requiring local police in San Francisco to comply with California Health & Saf. Code, 11369 which provides that [w]hen there is reason to believe that any person arrested for a violation [of any of 14 specified drug offenses] may not be a citizen of the United States, the arresting agency shall notify the appropriate agency of the United States having charge of deportation matters. He claimed that the police department was disregarding this statutory requirement. An intermediate California appeals court has overturned a trial court ruling holding that the state statute impermissibly interfered with the exclusive right of the federal government to regulate immigration. The statute, the court held, did not require police to decide what persons should or should not be allowed into the country, how long they could stay, or what their permissible conduct was, but instead merely required that they notify the appropriate federal authorities when there was reason to believe that an arrestee was not a citizen. Further proceedings were therefore ordered on the plaintiff's claim. Fonseca v. Fong, #A120206, 2008 Cal. App. Lexis 1673 (Cal. App. 1st Dist.).
    An arrestee who is a citizen of Uruguay claimed that law enforcement personnel violated his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations treaty by failing to inform him about or provide him with the right to contact the Uruguayan consulate about his arrest. The court ruled that article 36 of the treaty did not confer individual rights on an arrestee that could be judicially enforced in U.S. courts, and the rights stated in the treaty were instead meant to aid in the exercise of "consular functions." The court therefore rejected his claims for damages under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. Gandara v. Bennett, No. 06-16088, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 11088 (11th Cir.).
     Immigration rights groups failed to show any actual injury to any of their members from a federal government policy and practice of entering and distributing civil immigration information to state and local law enforcement through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), and therefore had no standing to assert claims concerning that policy and practice in a lawsuit. National Council of La Raza v. Gonzales, No. 03-CV-6324, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 1238 (E.D.N.Y.).[N/R]
     Federal trial court enjoins enforcement of municipal ordinance prohibiting landlords from renting apartments or houses to illegal aliens. The defendant city failed to show that such rental activity had the effect of increasing local crimes or otherwise endangered public welfare, health or safety. Questions remained as to whether federal immigration law preempted the city ordinance, and whether the ordinance was a violation of the right to due process of law. Garrett v. City of Escondido, No. 06CV2434, 2006 U.S. Dist. Lexis 93453 (S.D. Cal.). [N/R]

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