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Fifth Circuit Holds No Bivens Action Available for Immigration Arrests

Two undocumented immigrants who were subjected to traffic stops and arrested by federal Customs and Border Patrol agents far from the border filed Bivens actions against the agents including claims of due process violations, requests for relief under the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 500-596, and pendent state tort claims. The agents' defense was twofold: the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. § 1101, et seq., precludes a Bivens claim and they were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court ruled that the INA did not make a Bivens claim unavailable and the agents were not entitled to qualified immunity. The agents filed interlocutory appeals.

The Fifth Circuit court of appeals consolidated the appeals. The court noted that the "INA's comprehensive regulation of all immigration related issues, combined with Congress's frequent amendments shows that the INA is 'an elaborate remedial system that has been constructed step by step, with careful attention to conflicting policy considerations.'... Such a system 'should not be augmented by the creation of a new judicial remedy.'... Once the legislature has chosen a remedial scheme, federal courts are not free to supplement it. Here, the implicit, but emphatic message from Congress requires this Court to abstain from subjecting immigration officers to Bivens liability for civil immigration detention and removal proceedings.”

The court then held that "aliens involved in civil immigration enforcement actions cannot sue the arresting agents for simply stopping and detaining them." This made a ruling on qualified immunity unnecessary. The court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. See: De la Paz v. Coy, 5th Cir., No. 13-50768, decided May 14, 2015.


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Related legal case

De la Paz v. Coy