Can illegal immigrants sue the U.S. government if they got injured while being detained? In my knowledge, legal immigrants can sue the U.S. government if they got injured while being detained, but I am not sure if illegal immigrants can sue the U.S. government for doing the same. I am asking, because I don't ever think I've heard of a case where illegal immigrants sued the government.

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    While I would not post this as an answer I would think the police's duties don't disappear simply because a prisoner does not have the right to legally reside in the US. Nor does the laws of a country not apply to a person simply because he is foreign
    – Neil Meyer
    Jun 30, 2021 at 1:41

1 Answer 1


Can illegal immigrants sue the U.S. government if they got injured while being detained?

Yes, if they are in the USA at the time. See the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States in Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001):

It is well established that certain constitutional protections available to persons inside the United States are unavailable to aliens outside of our geographic borders.

[citations omitted]

But once an alien enters the country, the legal circumstance changes, for the Due Process Clause applies to all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens, whether their presence is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent. (My emboldenment)

In my research for this answer I came across a 2017 FactCheck.org article that disproved a fake news story that was doing the rounds. I have not repoduced it here to prevent its wider circulation by being found by internet search engines. Instead, this is what FactCheck has to say:

Q: Did the Supreme Court rule that immigrants living in the U.S. illegally can’t sue anyone if they feel they’ve been mistreated?

A: No. That claim was made in a bogus story published on satirical and fake news websites.

The fake news story appears to have come from the case of Hernandez v Mesa that...

...centered on the 2010 shooting of a Mexican teenager [Hernandez] on the Mexican side of the Mexico–United States border by a U.S. Border Patrol agent [Mesa] who was standing on the U.S. side of the border at the time he fired his weapon.

... and whether the Constitution extends protection to an individual who is killed on foreign soil, even though that person is standing just a few yards outside the United States. Apparently it doesn't as, after much toing and froing, on 25 February 2020 the SCOTUS...

ruled against Hernandez and held that the Court's precedent under Bivens did not extend to cross-border shootings.

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    In German law, a crime happens where it has its effect. So it doesn't matter that the trigger was pulled in the USA, but that the bullet hit in Mexico. So if the USA and Mexico followed the same (not unreasonable) rules, the US constitution wouldn't protect Hernandez, but the Mexican counterpart would. And Mexico could ask for the agent to be extradited.
    – gnasher729
    Dec 29, 2022 at 15:41
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    @gnasher729 Yep, but from my link to Hernandez v Mesa: "The Mexican government indicted Mesa for murder for the killing, but the U.S. refused to extradite him to Mexico."
    – user35069
    Dec 29, 2022 at 16:53
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    I assume Mr. Mesa will have no problems at all if he ever decides to cross the border to Mexico. Just the other direction…
    – gnasher729
    Dec 29, 2022 at 19:47

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