United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259 (1990)

2012-09-21 15:08:31

On discovering that a stateside warrant had been issued for alleged drug lord Rene Martin Verdugo- Urquidez, Mexican police arrested and delivered him to United States authorities. After his detention in San Diego, a joint U.S.–Mexico law enforcement team searched Verdugo-Urquidez’s properties in Mexico, uncovering evidence of possible drug trafficking. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment guarantee against unreasonable searches did not preclude this one, because Verdugo- Urquidez was a Mexican citizen without significant voluntary ties to the United States and because the search was conducted in Mexico. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Rehnquist held that the Fourth Amendment’s text applied only to ‘‘the people’’: those with sufficient, voluntary connections to the United States, thereby distinguishing the phrase from the broader term ‘‘persons’’ used in the due process clause. Looking to the amendment’s history, Rehnquist argued that the framers intended for its protections to extend only to domestic, not foreign, territory. Next, Rehnquist distinguished the instant case from INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, in which the Court assumed that the Fourth Amendment applied to undocumented immigrants in the United States. Rehnquist read Lopez-Mendoza to mean only that the exclusionary rule may not apply in civil deportation hearings but said nothing about the constitution’s extraterritorial application. Significantly, United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez limits the Fourth Amendment rights of certain noncitizens subject to United States law whose property is based abroad. Whether these rights are even further reduced by extension of Verdugo’s reasoning to domestic searches and all noncitizens remains to be seen.


References and Further Reading

  • Neuman, Gerald L., Whose Constitution? Yale Law Journal 100 (1991): 909–991.
  • Romero, Victor C., Whatever Happened to the Fourth Amendment?: Undocumented Immigrants’ Rights after INS v. Lopez-Mendoza and United States v. Verdugo- Urquidez, Southern California Law Review 65 (1992): 999–1034.

Cases and Statutes Cited

  • INS v. Lopez-Mendoza, 468 U.S. 1032 (1984)

See also Aliens, Civil Liberties of