Miranda rights don’t apply to warrant-backed immigration arrests, court rules


The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building, home of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is pictured in San Francisco

The James R. Browning U.S. Court of Appeals Building, home of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is pictured in San Francisco, California February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Noah Berger/File Photo Acquire Licensing Rights

  • Immigration officers don’t have to recite rights during civil arrests
  • Mexican citizen argued warrant made it more like a criminal case

Nov 17 (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Friday declined to extend Miranda rights to non-citizens facing deportation when immigration authorities have obtained a warrant to arrest them, though one judge said the court should revisit the issue.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that because deportation proceedings are civil and not criminal, non-citizens are not entitled to Miranda warnings typically recited by police during a criminal arrest regardless of whether a warrant is involved.

The court upheld an order to deport Jose Maria Zuniga De La Cruz, a Mexican citizen who had sought to block the fact that he had admitted to immigration officers that he was in the United States illegally from being used as evidence in his case.

The U.S. Department of Justice and a lawyer for Zuniga did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The 1966 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Miranda v. Arizona says prosecutors cannot use criminal defendants’ statements against them unless they were first informed of their constitutional rights to counsel and against self-incrimination.

At least seven appeals courts, including the 9th Circuit, have ruled that Miranda does not apply to civil immigration proceedings.

Zuniga, who had been in the United States since 2004, was arrested outside of his home in 2018 by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers who had obtained an administrative warrant. The officers said Zuniga admitted that he was in the U.S. illegally.

Unlike criminal arrest warrants, which must be signed by a judge, administrative warrants are approved by an ICE official based on evidence that a person is illegally present in the country.

Zuniga said the statements he made to the officers were coerced and he moved to suppress them, claiming that Miranda applied to his case. He argued that an arrest backed by an administrative warrant is “closer to a criminal arrest,” according to Friday’s decision.

An immigration judge denied the motion and ordered Zuniga to be deported, and the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed. The 9th Circuit on Friday rejected Zuniga’s appeal.

“It is the nature of the proceeding in which the inculpatory statements are to be used and not the nature of the arrest that is relevant,” Circuit Judge Daniel Bress wrote.

Circuit Judge Salvador Mendoza in a concurring opinion agreed that Miranda did not apply to civil proceedings. But non-citizens have constitutional rights, he wrote, and the 9th Circuit should consider adopting a similar requirement for deportation cases.

“Though Mr. Zuniga’s Miranda argument fails, it raises important questions: when should immigration officers advise noncitizens of their rights, and what exactly should this prophylactic warning look like?” wrote Mendoza, an appointee of President Joe Biden.

Bress, who was appointed by Republican former President Donald Trump, in response to Mendoza said there was no legal basis to grant those rights.

“Miranda, which does not apply here, is not authority for creating new versions of itself in the immigration context,” he wrote.

The panel also included U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen of the District of Minnesota, who sat by designation.

The case is Zuniga De La Cruz v. Garland, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-352.

For Zuniga: Saman Nasseri of Nasseri Legal

For the government: Aric Anderson of the U.S. Department of Justice

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at daniel.wiessner@thomsonreuters.com.


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