I don’t give legal advice anymore. But as a retired civil rights lawyer, I do have few words of wisdom for any U.S. border agent, supervisor, manager or executive who might be thinking about taking up Trump’s offer of a pardon for any lawbreaking that involves standing between immigrants and their rights granted by U.S. law. That wisdom is simply this —
Don’t listen to the moron in the White House. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about and can’t save you from damage suits that will make you a pauper.
Mostly, Federal employees need not worry about civil liability for damages in cases arising from their jobs. They enjoy a large degree of immunity and other protections under the Federal Tort Claims Act and other statutes. But when a Federal employee, in the course of duty, performs that duty in a way that violates a clear statutory or legal standard, the immunity rules change and the risk of exposure for the employee explodes.
Federal Courts impose no citizenship requirement on plaintiffs who bring damage suits against U.S. citizens subject to the Courts’ jurisdiction. If I were the young and energetic young legal crusader whom I was, once, I would be researching every possible legal point, down to the size of a gnat’s ass, that could possibly play a role in this kind of case, while simultaneously networking with the immigration bar in prominent Southern border points to identify persons whose U.S. legal rights have been trampled by CBP outlaws carrying out the criminal policies of Donald Trump and Stephen Miller. I would be going to border towns like Tijuana and giving Spanish language seminars to asylum seekers, about their U.S. legal rights regarding some of the things border agents are doing to them. With lunch.
Trump’s Pardon power only benefits persons convicted of Federal crimes. If a border agent decides to break the law, expecting protection from a Trump pardon, he or she may be walking straight into a buzzsaw of potential money damage liability to the victims of such lawlessness.
Many border agents carry insurance. A civil damage suit should be able to, at least, pay for itself, and bankrupting agents, and, especially their supervisors and managers, feels like justice to me.