Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Delgado

Decision Date17 April 1984
Docket NumberNo. 82-1271,82-1271
PartiesIMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE et al. v. Herman DELGADO et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court
Syllabus

Acting pursuant to warrants issued on a showing of probable cause that numerous unidentified illegal aliens were employed at a garment factory, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) conducted two "factory surveys" of the work force in search of illegal aliens. A third factory survey was conducted with the employer's consent at another garment factory. During each survey, which lasted from one to two hours, INS agents positioned themselves near the factory exits, while other agents moved systematically through the factory, approaching employees and, after identifying themselves, asking the employees from one to three questions relating to their citizenship. If an employee gave a credible reply that he was a United States citizen or produced his immigration papers, the agent moved on to another employee. During the survey, employees continued with their work and were free to walk around within the factory. Respondent employees—who were United States citizens or permanent resident aliens, and who had been questioned during the surveys—and their union filed actions, consolidated in Federal District Court, alleging that the factory surveys violated their Fourth Amendment rights, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The District Court granted summary judgment for the INS, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the surveys constituted a seizure of the entire work forces, and that the INS could not question an individual employee unless its agents had a reasonable suspicion that the employee was an illegal alien.

Held: The factory surveys did not result in the seizure of the entire work forces, and the individual questioning of the respondent employees by INS agents concerning their citizenship did not amount to a detention or seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 215-221.

(a) Interrogation relating to one's identity or a request for identification by the police does not, by itself, constitute a Fourth Amendment seizure. Unless the circumstances of the encounter are so intimidating as to demonstrate that a reasonable person would have believed he was not free to leave if he had not responded, such questioning does not result in a detention under the Fourth Amendment. Pp. 216-217.

(b) The entire work forces of the factories were not seized for the duration of the surveys here, even though INS agents were placed near the exits of the factory sites. The record indicates that the agents' conduct consisted simply of questioning employees and arresting those they had probable cause to believe were unlawfully present in the factory. This conduct should not have given respondents, or any other citizens or aliens lawfully present in the factories, any reason to believe that they would be detained if they gave truthful answers to the questions put to them or if they simply refused to answer. If mere questioning did not constitute a seizure when it occurred inside the factory, it was no more a seizure when it occurred at the exits. Pp. 217-219.

(c) Since there was no seizure of the work forces by virtue of the method of conducting the surveys, the issue of individual questioning could be presented only if one of the respondent employees had in fact been seized or detained, but their deposition testimony showed that none were. They may only litigate what happened to them, and their description of the encounters with the INS agents showed that the encounters were classic consensual encounters rather than Fourth Amendment seizures. Pp. 219-221.

681 F.2d 624 (9th Cir.1982), reversed.

Andrew L. Frey, Washington, D.C., for petitioners.

Henry R. Fenton, Los Angeles, for respondents.

Justice REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

In the course of enforcing the immigration laws, petitioner Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) enters employers' worksites to determine whether any illegal aliens may be present as employees. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the "factory surveys" involved in this case amounted to a seizure of the entire work forces, and further held that the INS could not question individual employees during any of these surveys unless its agents had a reasonable suspicion that the employee to be questioned was an illegal alien. International Ladies' Garment Worker's Union, AFL—CIO v. Sureck, 681 F.2d 624 (9th Cir.1982). We conclude that these factory surveys did not result in the seizure of the entire work forces, and that the individual questioning of the respondents in this case by INS agents concerning their citizenship did not amount to a detention or seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

Acting pursuant to two warrants, in January and September, 1977 the INS conducted a survey of the work force at Southern California Davis Pleating Co. (Davis Pleating) in search of illegal aliens. The warrants were issued on a showing of probable cause by the INS that numerous illegal aliens were employed at Davis Pleating, although neither of the search warrants identified any particular illegal aliens by name. A third factory survey was conducted with the employer's consent in October, 1977, at Mr. Pleat, another garment factory.

At the beginning of the surveys several agents positioned themselves near the buildings' exits, while other agents dispersed throughout the factory to question most, but not all, employees at their work stations. The agents displayed badges, carried walkie-talkies, and were armed, although at no point during any of the surveys was a weapon ever drawn. Moving systematically through the factory, the agents approached employees and, after identifying themselves, asked them from one to three questions relating to their citizenship. If the employee gave a credible reply that he was a United States citizen, the questioning ended, and the agent moved on to another employee. If the employee gave an unsatisfac- tory response or admitted that he was an alien, the employee was asked to produce his immigration papers. During the survey, employees continued with their work and were free to walk around within the factory.

Respondents are four employees questioned in one of the three surveys.1 In 1978 respondents and their union representative, the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union, filed two actions, later consolidated, in the United States District Court for the Central District of California challenging the constitutionality of INS factory surveys and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. Respondents argued that the factory surveys violated their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches or seizures and the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

The District Court denied class certification and dismissed the union from the action for lack of standing, App. to Pet. for Cert. 58a-60a. In a series of cross-motions for partial summary judgment, the District Court ruled that respondents had no reasonable expectation of privacy in their workplaces which conferred standing on them to challenge entry by the INS pursuant to a warrant or owner's consent. Id., at 49a-52a, 53a-55a, 56a-57a. In its final ruling the District Court addressed respondents' request for injunctive relief directed at preventing the INS from questioning them personally during any future surveys. The District Court, with no material facts in dispute, found that each of the four respondents was asked a question or questions by an INS agent during one of the factory surveys. Id., at 46a. Reasoning from this Court's decision in Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968), that law enforcement officers may ask questions of anyone, the District Court ruled that none of the respondents had been detained under the Fourth Amendment during the factory surveys, either when they were questioned or otherwise. App. to Pet. for Cert. 47a. Accordingly, it granted summary judgment in favor of the INS.2

The Court of Appeals reversed. Applying the standard first enunciated by a Member of this Court in United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 100 S.Ct. 1870, 64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980) (opinion of Stewart, J.), the Court of Appeals concluded that the entire work forces were seized for the duration of each survey, which lasted from one to two hours, because the stationing of agents at the doors to the buildings meant that "a reasonable worker 'would have believed that he was not free to leave.' " 681 F.2d, at 634 (quoting United States v. Anderson, 663 F.2d 934, 939 (CA9 1981)). Although the Court of Appeals conceded that the INS had statutory authority to question any alien or person believed to be an alien as to his right to be or remain in the United States, see 66 Stat. 233, 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(1), it further held that under the Fourth Amendment individual employees could be questioned only on the basis of a reasonable suspicion that a particular employee being questioned was an alien illegally in the country. 681 F.2d, at 639-645. A reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that a number of illegal aliens were working at a particular factory site was insufficient to justify questioning any individual employee. Id., at 643. Consequently, it also held that the individual questioning of respondents violated the Fourth Amendment because there had been no such reasonable suspicion or probable cause as to any of them.3 We granted certiorari to review the decision of the Court of Appeals, 461 U.S. 904, 103 S.Ct. 1872, 76 L.Ed.2d 805 (1983), because it has serious implications for the enforcement of the immigration laws and presents a conflict with the decision reached by the Third Circuit in Babula v. INS, 665 F.2d 293 (1981)...

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