Constitutional Law

2nd Circuit reinstates suit of immigrants rounded up after Sept. 11 attacks

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A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit filed on behalf of immigrants illegally in the United States who were rounded up and detained after the Sept. 11 attacks, though they were “unquestionably never involved in terrorist activity.”

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled 2-1 on behalf of six plaintiffs detained in New York, who claimed they were held in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, physically abused, subjected to strip searches, given barely edible food, denied sleep and subjected to offensive comments. The New York Times and the Associated Press have stories. How Appealing links to the opinion (PDF).

The suit seeks class action status on behalf of those who were perceived to be Arab or Muslim and detained in harsh conditions in response to the attacks.

The defendants include former Attorney General John Ashcroft and former FBI director Robert Mueller. The case is Turkmen v. Ashcroft.

“The suffering endured by those who were imprisoned merely because they were caught up in the hysteria of the days immediately following 9/11 is not without a remedy,” the court majority said.

The court allowed the plaintiffs’ claims against the high-ranking officials for alleged violations of substantive due process, based on the conditions of confinement, and equal protection, based on differing treatment based on perceived religion or ethnicity.

In 2009 the U.S. Supreme Court barred a suit against Ashcroft and Mueller because the plaintiffs did not supply enough detail about wrongdoing. The 2nd Circuit said the plaintiffs in the new case had satisfied that requirement.

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