Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Ninth Circuit: Improper ICE Detainer Constitutes Article III Injury

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court’s dismissal of a false imprisonment suit based upon an improper immigration detainer, as the district court incorrectly held that it lacked Article III standing.

In June 2007, Bernardo Mendia was arrested on several California state charges. The court granted bail but Mendia needed the assistance of a bondsman to get out.

Before Mendia could make bail, he was interviewed by two agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – Ching Chang and John M. Garcia. Mendia insisted that he was an American citizen and had a valid U.S. passport, and gave them his Social Security number. He then invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, directing the agents to speak with his public defender. Agent Garcia became irate and said, “Oh! You don’t want to talk to me? We’ll see if you want to talk when we’re deporting your ass!”

An immigration detainer was immediately lodged against Mendia, falsely declaring that he was an illegal immigrant of Mexican nationality. The detainer blocked Mendia from posting bail. All the bondsmen he contacted “refused to even consider posting a bail ... because of the immigration detainer.”

About six months later the detainer was canceled, but Mendia was not told it had been lifted until much later. Sometime after the detainer was lifted, the state court released Mendia on his own recognizance. He refused to accept release, however, believing that the detainer was still valid and that he would risk being rearrested and deported – jeopardizing his defense to the pending state criminal charges.

After finally learning that the detainer had been canceled, Mendia accepted release on his own recognizance in July 2009.

He then filed Bivens and Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claims against Chang and Garcia, alleging constitutional and common-law tort violations. The district court dismissed for lack of Article III standing, finding that Mendia could not have suffered injury because ICE never took him into custody.

Mendia appealed and the Ninth Circuit reversed. “Remaining confined in jail when one should otherwise be free is an Article III injury, plain and simple,” the appellate court concluded. “Who or what caused that injury is of course a separate question.”

The Court of Appeals explained that “Of the three elements required to establish Article III standing – injury, causation, and redressability – injury and redressability are easily met here. If we take Mendia’s well-pleaded allegations as true, as we must on this facial attack ... he spent two years in pre-trial detention that he should not have endured. He thus claims as his injury loss of liberty, which satisfies Article III because it’s ‘an injury that affects him in a “personal and individual way.”’”

The Court of Appeals also found that Mendia had adequately alleged causation by arguing “the government’s unlawful conduct, while not directly causing his injury, nonetheless led third parties to act in a way that injured him.” See: Mendia v. Garcia, 768 F.3d 1009 (9th Cir. 2014).

Following remand the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted in part and denied in part on February 26, 2016, and the district court allowed Mendia to proceed on various claims – including First and Fourth Amendment Bivens claims, a Fifth Amendment equal protection claim and FTCA claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment and negligence. The case remains pending. See: Mendia v. Garcia, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 24031 (N.D. Cal. 2016). 

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal cases

Mendia v. Garcia,

Mendia v. Garcia