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Morales v. Chadbourne

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

July 17, 2015

ADA MORALES, Plaintiff, Appellee,


Stuart F. Delery, Assistant Attorney General, with whom J. Max Weintraub, Aaron S. Goldsmith, and William C. Peachey were on brief, for appellants.

Katherine Desormeau, with whom R. Orion Danjuma, Omar C. Jadwat, Mark W. Freel, Mackenzie Mango, and Lena Graber were on brief, for appellee.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Lipez and Barron, Circuit Judges.


LIPEZ, Circuit Judge.

Ada Morales is a naturalized United States citizen who was born in Guatemala. In May 2009, Morales was imprisoned for 24 hours pursuant to an immigration detainer so agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (" ICE" ) could investigate her immigration status. She brought this action alleging, inter alia, that the ICE agents -- defendants Edward Donaghy, Bruce Chadbourne, and David Riccio -- unlawfully detained her in violation of her Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

Donaghy, the ICE agent who issued the detainer, moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. Chadbourne and Riccio, Donaghy's supervisors, moved to dismiss, also on the basis of qualified immunity. The district court denied the defendants' motions, and they filed this interlocutory appeal.

Donaghy argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity on Morales's Fourth Amendment claim because the law was not clearly established in 2009 that an ICE agent was required to have probable cause before issuing a detainer. In the alternative, he contends that, if probable cause was required, the law was not clearly established in 2009 that the issuance of the detainer under the applicable circumstances did not constitute probable cause. With regard to Morales's Fifth Amendment equal protection claim, Donaghy argues that he did not violate her clearly established Fifth Amendment rights because he did not detain Morales solely on the basis of her race, ethnicity, or national origin.

Chadbourne and Riccio contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity because Morales failed to allege sufficient facts to plausibly state a supervisory liability claim holding them responsible for allowing their subordinates to issue detainers against U.S. citizens without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment. They further argue that, even if Morales's allegations were sufficient, they did not violate a clearly established Fourth Amendment right.

After review, we agree with Morales that the law was clearly established in 2009 that, under the Fourth Amendment, an ICE agent required probable cause to issue an immigration detainer. We, therefore, affirm the district court's denial of qualified immunity on Morales's Fourth Amendment claim against Donaghy on that issue. Because Donaghy's Fourth Amendment argument regarding the circumstances surrounding the detainer that he issued against Morales and his Fifth Amendment equal protection argument do not present pure issues of law, his appeal on these grounds must be dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction. These arguments rely on facts asserted in Donaghy's declarations, and those facts were not among the ones that the district court relied upon in denying Donaghy's motion. Finally, because Morales has sufficiently alleged that supervisors Chadbourne and Riccio violated a clearly established Fourth Amendment right, we also affirm the district court's denial of qualified immunity on Morales's Fourth Amendment supervisory liability claim against them. We remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.


This appeal addresses both Donaghy's motion for summary judgment as well as Chadbourne and Riccio's motion to dismiss. Because the appeal is interlocutory, the summary judgment standard requires that we " take, as given, the facts that the district court assumed when it denied summary judgment." Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 319, 115 S.Ct. 2151, 132 L.Ed.2d 238 (1995). The motion to dismiss standard requires that we draw the facts from Morales's complaint and documents incorporated into the complaint. Hernandez-Cuevas v. Taylor, 723 F.3d 91, 94 (1st Cir. 2013). For this appeal, however, the facts are the same regardless of which standard we use. Because the district court took Morales's allegations as true in deciding both motions, and did not rely on any contrary assertions by the defendants, the pertinent facts for our review are those alleged in Morales's complaint.

Morales is a United States citizen and long-time resident of Rhode Island. Born in Guatemala, she immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and naturalized in 1995. Since then, on at least two occasions, she has been detained by government officials pursuant to an immigration detainer, which is a request from ICE to another law enforcement agency to detain a non-citizen up to 48 hours so that ICE may investigate whether the non-citizen is subject to deportation. See 8 C.F.R. § 287.7(a), (d).

The first incident took place in July 2004. Morales had been arrested by the Cranston, Rhode Island, Police Department at a local K-Mart on charges that were ultimately dismissed. Even though she was a U.S. citizen, ICE issued a detainer against Morales indicating that she was a non-citizen subject to removal. Morales was detained overnight pursuant to the detainer. Her extended detention caused her to miss a flight she had scheduled to visit relatives in Guatemala and to forfeit the $3,000 airfare.

The second incident, and the basis for this action, occurred in May 2009. On May 1, 2009, Morales was arrested while playing with her children in her front yard by the Rhode Island State Police on a warrant for criminal charges relating to alleged misrepresentations in a state benefits application.[1] She was transported to the police station, where a state police officer asked her where she was born and whether she was " legal." Morales responded that she was born in Guatemala and that she was a U.S. citizen. Morales was then transported to the Rhode Island Adult Correctional Institutions (" ACI" ), where she was booked into custody.

On May 4, 2009, ICE faxed an immigration detainer form to the ACI. The detainer incorrectly identified Morales as an alien whose nationality was Guatemalan, and stated that an " [i]nvestigation has been initiated to determine whether [Morales] is subject to removal from the United States." The detainer further informed the ACI that " [f]ederal regulations (8 C.F.R. § 287.7) require that you detain the alien for a period not to exceed 48 hours . . . to provide adequate time for DHS to assume custody of the alien." The detainer was issued by Donaghy, an ICE agent based in ICE's Rhode Island Office. Donaghy was supervised by Riccio, the Resident-Agent-in-Charge of the Rhode Island office, and Chadbourne, the Field Office Director of the Boston Field Office, which has responsibility over ICE operations in Rhode Island.

Before the detainer was issued, no ICE official interviewed Morales to ask whether she was a U.S. citizen, nor did anyone request documentation from her relating to her citizenship. ICE officials also failed to search federal immigration databases[2] to obtain a copy of her citizenship application or certificate of naturalization.

The same day that ICE sent the immigration detainer to the ACI, a state court ordered Morales released from criminal custody on personal recognizance. Instead of being released, however, Morales was re-booked into ACI custody, strip searched, and kept in jail for 24 more hours based solely on the ICE detainer. When she was notified that her continued detention was based on the detainer, Morales told multiple ACI employees that the detainer was issued in error because she is a U.S. citizen. The ACI employees disregarded her pleas, and she was kept in detention.

On May 5, 2009, ICE agents arrived at the ACI and drove Morales to an ICE office in Warwick, Rhode Island. There, the ICE agents interviewed her, confirmed that she was a U.S. citizen, and released her to her family. Upon releasing her, an ICE agent apologized to ...

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