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Immediately
following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government responded by authorizing
federal officials  to conduct sweeps in
which they sought after and detained immigrants that were in the U.S.
illegally. Having suspicions that individuals could have ties to terrorism, FBI
and immigration officials detained hundreds of men, mainly from Middle Eastern
countries. These detainees were held in the Metropolitan Detention Center, in
which they endured lots of mistreatment. Detainees claimed that they were
beaten, strip-searched, and often held in isolation with no access to
communicate with family members or lawyers. This harsh treatment lasted for
months. After finally being released, several detainees filed a lawsuit against
a group of federal officials: former U.S. attorney general John Ashcroft,
former FBI director Robert Mueller, and James Ziglar, a former commissioner of
the Immigration and Naturalization Service, along with Warden Hasty and
numerous guards of the Metropolitan Detention Center (Howe, 2017). The
detainees claimed that the federal officials knew that the detainees did not
have any ties to terrorism but still held them in “unnecessary and punitive
conditions of confinement”  solely
because of their race or religion (Howe, 2017). The detainees brought into play
Bivens claims and alleged that their constitutional rights, specifically their
First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment rights were violated.

Rule

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            In Ziglar v. Abbasi, the Supreme
Court held that illegal immigrants arrested in the immediate aftermath of the
9/11 terrorist attacks could not maintain a Bivens claim, which allows for
individuals to file lawsuits against federal officials for damages arising from
an unconstitutional search. The Supreme Court asserted that if a new claim is
introduced in regards to Bivens, then there ought to be some “special factors”
that makes it more reasonable for the Supreme Court  to determine whether or not there is a new
cause of action than Congress. The Supreme Court also asserted that since the
Bivens ruling in 1971, there has only been two instances in which The Supreme
Court extended a damages remedy – a 1979 case claiming a Fifth Amendment gender
discrimination and a 1980 case claiming an Eight Amendment Cruel and Unusual
Punishments Clause violation (Ziglar v. Abbasi, 2017). Moreover, the Supreme
Court stated that the allegations regarding the government’s detention policy
introduced new circumstances that were not similar to usual Bivens claims. As a
result, the claimed damages did not include a special element requiring
judicial intervention, instead the circumstances deal with national security
decisions by officials of the Executive Branch. The Supreme Court went on to
explain that alternative assistance was available to the detainees through a
writ of Habeas corpus. Otherwise, the detainees had no legal grounds to file a
lawsuit against the federal officials.

            As it pertains to the claims filed
against Warden Hasty of the Metropolitan Detention Center, the Supreme Court
asserted that the claims filed by the detainees regarding the abuse they
endured were also in a new context to Bivens because prior Bivens claims
regarding prison abuse dealt with violations of the Eighth Amendment, while the
claims from the detainees were under the Fifth Amendment. Admitting that, if
the accusations were truthful, the way the detainees were treated was
unfortunate, the Supreme Court however sent majority of the detainees’ claims
back to lower-level courts for further deliberation. Ultimately, the Supreme
Court granted each of the government officials “qualified immunity”(Ziglar v.
Abbasi, 2017).

Analysis

            The Ziglar v. Abbasi case is a
peculiar case in that the Supreme Court did not see it fit to expand the Bivens
claims past the specific traditional and legal situations and circumstances. In
an attempt to analyze the case, one must consider the implications of a case
being “different in a meaningful way” (Ziglar v. Abbasi, 2017). No case will be
exactly the same to another, but that does not mean that a case cannot be used
in support of a future case. “Different in a meaningful way” can mean what
constitutional right is being violated, the risk of affecting other branches of
the governments and their functionality, and even the “rank of the officers
involved”(Ziglar v. Abbasi, 2017). Nonetheless, the Ziglar v. Abbasi introduced
a new aspect with regards to the Bivens claims and therefore should have been
approached in a more willing manner in order to address the issue. As observed
with both expansions of the Bivens claims in 1979 and 1980, when a claim
introduced a new element, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held them in a
new context which led to a special factors analysis being conducted. The Court
of Appeals should have done the same in the Ziglar v. Abbasi case, which could
have tailored the plaintiffs’ argument to be more suitable  because the Bivens claims are not proper for
questioning a policy decision or requiring “an inquiry into sensitive issues of
national security”(Ziglar v. Abbasi, 2017). While majority of the individuals
detained in these sweeps were illegal immigrants who had overstayed their
visas, they still reserved the right to file a lawsuit against others who may
have violated their rights as stated in the Equal Protection Clause.

            Moreover, the Supreme Court accused
the Court of Appeals of making a legal error against Ziglar because it should
have dismissed the federal statute, 42 U.S.C. 1985(3), which “forbids certain
conspiracies” to deprive any person or group of equal protection, on the basis
qualified immunity. Under qualified immunity, a government official cannot be
held accountable if there is not clear evidence to prove that the individual
acted unconstitutionally. The Supreme Court furthers its stance by stating that
conspiracy claims must “allege agreement between parties” and since this case
failed to do so, the Supreme Court could reject the 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) claims
otherwise, the lawsuits could possibly affect relationships within the
executive branch (Ziglar v. Abbasi, 2017). This assertion clearly ignores human
rights violations. Although there was no clear evidence, there was
evidence that suggested the plaintiffs were mistreated, therefore the guards
and Warden Hasty, at the very least, should have been held accountable for
their actions. However, this assertion makes it difficult for a prisoner to
claim they were abused by these individuals even if these individuals are
the prison officials that are directly responsible for the conditions of
the plaintiffs’ standard of living.

Conclusion

            In
conclusion, the Ziglar v. Abbasi case is special in that it introduced a topic
that the Supreme Court had never encountered. Considering the Supreme Court’s
unwillingness to expand Bivens claims beyond the traditional and usual
situations, future lawsuits for damages are put at risk. In contemporary
society, there are still attempts by the federal government to mitigate the
possibility of terrorist infiltration. For example, the travel ban proposed by
the Trump administration proves that there is still fear of the unknown. Fear
is a driving factor behind human behavior, and while ordinances may be
established that align with the constitution and are fair, fear allows humans
to enforce these laws in any way they see fit. That being said, the
implications of Ziglar v. Abbasi as it pertains to future instances when
individuals seek to file a suit for unconstitutional conduct by federal officials
is that there will likely not be any judicial relief unless the claim is made
while one is still enduring mistreatment. 

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