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Name: U.S. v. Tsai
Case #: 00-10483
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 03/05/2002
Subsequent History: None

An INS agent stationed at Guam International Airport stopped 2 passengers attempting to board a flight to Honolulu. He discovered their passports had photo-substitutions (i.e., legitimate passports with substituted photos for the originals). Their real names were He and Chen. The INS agent determined that appellant Tsai (already on the flight headed for Honolulu), had been escorting He and Chen to the U.S., assisting them in entering the U.S. illegally. Investigations led the INS to conclude that Tsai had done this several times before. The agent contacted Honolulu INS authorities to detain Tsai for questioning. Another INS agent met Tsai’s flight and searched his carry-on bag. He found an airline ticket with the names that were the aliases appearing on He and Chen’s doctored passports. Tsai was arrested by the agent for bringing unauthorized aliens to the U.S. for private financial gain, a violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(2). Tsai moved to suppress the evidence found in his carry-on bag as beyond the statutory authority of INS to conduct a criminal investigation, rather than for a “routine” administrative purpose of enforcing immigration laws. The court here held that the subjective motivation for the purpose of the search does not impose a warrant requirement at the border; the INS enjoys the specific statutory authority to execute warrantless searches of the personal effects in possession of any person seeking admission to the U.S.