Saravia v. Sessions et al
ORDER GRANTING THE MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION; GRANTING THE MOTION FOR PROVISIONAL CLASS CERTIFICATION; GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART THE FEDERAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS; GRANTING IN FULL THE NON-FEDERAL DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS, re 51 , 54 , 58 , 61 . Signed by Judge Vince Chhabria on November 20, 2017. (vclc3S, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 11/20/2017)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
ILSA SARAVIA, et al.,
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, et al.,
Case No. 17-cv-03615-VC
ORDER GRANTING THE MOTION
FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION;
GRANTING THE MOTION FOR
CERTIFICATION; GRANTING IN
PART AND DENYING IN PART THE
FEDERAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION
TO DISMISS; GRANTING IN FULL
THE NON-FEDERAL DEFENDANTS'
MOTIONS TO DISMISS
Re: Dkt. No. 51, 54, 58, 61
The federal government sometimes releases noncitizens on bond or parole while their
removal proceedings are pending. Release reflects a determination by the government that the
noncitizen is not a danger to the community or a flight risk. Once a noncitizen has been released,
the law prohibits federal agents from rearresting him merely because he is subject to removal
proceedings. Rather, the federal agents must be able to present evidence of materially changed
circumstances – namely, evidence that the noncitizen is in fact dangerous or has become a flight
risk, or is now subject to a final order of removal. And if the noncitizen disputes the notion that
changed circumstances justify his rearrest, he is entitled to a prompt hearing before an
immigration judge. These protections against the erroneous deprivation of liberty arose out of a
1981 decision by the Board of Immigration Appeals and are embodied in the current practices of
the Department of Homeland Security.
A small group of similarly situated noncitizens, however, has not been receiving
comparable protections when rearrested. Specifically, some noncitizens enter the country as
unaccompanied minors – that is, children with no parent or guardian available to care for them.
Under existing law, the federal government conducts an assessment of the minor, and either
keeps him in custody while his removal proceedings are pending or places him with a suitable
"sponsor" in the United States. The sponsor is often a family member, and the minor's placement
with the sponsor reflects a determination by the federal government that the minor is neither
dangerous nor a flight risk (and that such a placement is in the child's best interest).
Recently, federal agents have been arresting noncitizens – including some minors who
were previously placed with sponsors – based on allegations of gang involvement. Instead of
giving those minors a prompt hearing to dispute that their detention is now justified based on
changed circumstances, the government has been transferring them to different parts of the
country for placement in high-security facilities for an indefinite period.
The issue in this case is not whether federal agents may arrest and detain undocumented
minors who truly are members of dangerous criminal gangs. If federal agents have probable
cause to believe that a minor is a member of a criminal gang, certainly that could be a "changed
circumstance" that would justify detention, even if the government had previously determined
that the minor was not dangerous. But there is no reason to deny these minors protections that
noncitizens typically get after having been released on bond or parole. The minors and their
sponsors have the right to participate in a prompt hearing before an immigration judge in which
the government's evidence of changed circumstances is put to the test. By shipping the minors
across the country for indefinite detention in a high-security facility before providing that
hearing, the government has violated their due process rights.
Accordingly, for any noncitizen minor previously placed with a sponsor who has been
arrested on allegations of gang activity, the government is ordered to provide a hearing before an
immigration judge by no later than November 29, 2017, to allow the minor and his sponsor to
contest the government's evidence of changed circumstances. The government must restore the
minor to the sponsor's custody if such evidence is lacking. Going forward, at least while this
lawsuit is pending, the government is ordered to provide such a hearing within seven days of
arrest of any such minor.
The plaintiffs have asked for further relief, and they have asserted additional legal
theories. Further relief may be warranted, but because the minors are clearly entitled to at least
this due process protection, and because their need for that protection is time-sensitive, a
preliminary injunction on this issue is warranted at this time.
In the Spring of 2017, agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"),
which is a division of the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), executed "Operation
Matador" in two New York counties. Operation Matador targeted undocumented immigrants in
Suffolk and Nassau Counties who had alleged connections to criminal gangs. After receiving
allegations of gang affiliation from local law enforcement officers, ICE agents proceeded to
arrest the alleged gang members, relying on ICE's authority under federal law to arrest
noncitizens who are subject to removal from the country. See Tr. of Oct. 27, 2017 Hearing at 2328, Dkt. No. 98.
Some of the people arrested were minors. And ICE decided, after making the arrests, that
some of the minors fell within a certain legal category: "unaccompanied" minors. Under federal
law, an unaccompanied minor is a child who comes across the border without any parent or legal
guardian in the United States available to take care of them. 6 U.S.C. § 279(g)(2). When DHS
takes custody of an unaccompanied minor, federal law requires that agency to transfer custody of
the minor to the Office of Refugee Resettlement ("ORR"), a division within a different cabinetlevel agency, namely, the Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS"). The statutory
purpose behind this transfer requirement is to provide special protections for unaccompanied
minors, a particularly vulnerable group. In particular, Congress created this framework to
address the concern that unaccompanied minors may be victims of human trafficking operations
or other criminal activity, concluding that HHS was better equipped to assess and attend to the
needs of these minors than DHS. The primary federal statute that confers this and other
protections on unaccompanied minors is called the Trafficking Victims Protection
Reauthorization Act, or TVPRA. Pub. L. No. 110-457, § 235, 122 Stat. 5044, 5074-82 (2008)
(codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1232); see also 6 U.S.C. § 279.
When an unaccompanied minor is taken into custody by DHS and then ORR, typically
proceedings begin before an immigration judge (under the auspices of the Department of Justice)
to decide whether the minor should be removed from the country. The TVPRA requires ORR to
decide where to place the minor while the removal proceedings are pending. The statute requires
ORR to place the unaccompanied minor "in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest
of the child," considering, among other things, whether the minor is dangerous. 8 U.S.C. §
1232(c)(2)(A). ORR may release the minor to a "sponsor" who already lives in the country but
was not with the minor when DHS picked him up – often a parent or relative – so long as the
minor is not dangerous and the placement is otherwise suitable. If placement with a sponsor is
not appropriate (either because there is no sponsor, or because the proposed sponsor is
unsuitable, or because the minor is dangerous), ORR will detain the minor in a facility pending
resolution of the removal proceedings. Id.; see also 6 U.S.C. § 279(b)(2)(B).
The facilities used by ORR have three security levels. The least restrictive level is a
shelter facility, the medium level is a staff-secure facility, and the most restrictive level is a
secure facility. The secure facility is akin to a local juvenile hall – in fact, ORR uses local
juvenile halls to house the most dangerous unaccompanied minors, pursuant to contracts with
local governments. See, e.g., Supp. Decl. of Julia Mass (June 23, 2017), Ex. 2 at 1-3, Dkt. No.
19-3; Decl. of Ashley Corkery ("Corkery Decl."), Ex. B at 77, Dkt. No. 61-3. In addition to local
governments, ORR contracts with private entities (typically nonprofits) to take custody of
unaccompanied minors. See, e.g., Corkery Decl., Ex. B at 77; Esquivel Mot. To Dismiss at 4
n.2, Dkt. No. 58.
But under Operation Matador, the minors that ICE arrested and classified as
"unaccompanied" minors were not your typical unaccompanied minors. That is, they were not
people who just came across the border, with no parent or guardian immediately available to care
for them. Rather, these minors had come across the border previously – often years before – as
unaccompanied minors, and had already once been placed into the custody of ORR. As required
by the TVPRA, ORR conducted an assessment of these unaccompanied minors shortly after they
arrived, to determine where they should be placed while the federal government decided whether
to remove them from the country. And it appears that for each minor, ORR made the
determination that the minors should be placed with sponsors rather than detained. Placement
was often with parents who were eventually identified as already living in the country. In other
words, the federal government had already determined, some time previously, that the minors
arrested in Operation Matador were not dangerous.1
Three of those minors are now part of this lawsuit, although initially it was only one. The
first minor, who goes by the initials A.H., came into the country from Honduras in 2015,
unaccompanied by a parent or guardian. Decl. of A.H. (June 22, 2017) at 2, Dkt. No. 8. He fled
an abusive father, and shortly after arriving in the United States he was placed in an ORR facility
in New York. Approximately one month later, ORR released A.H. to live with his mother in
Long Island, where he remained until this past June. Id. at 2-3. A.H. had two encounters with
the criminal justice system during this time. The first was an incident with a fellow student at his
high school that resulted in charges of menacing and possession of a weapon, both of which were
adjourned in contemplation of dismissal after A.H. completed a pre-plea community service
program. The second was a low-level charge for possession of marijuana, which also was
adjourned in contemplation of dismissal. Decl. of Stephanie Gibbs (June 22, 2017) at 4-5, Dkt.
No. 10. According to A.H., a friend with whom he was arrested admitted to having been part of
a gang in the past, but A.H. denied any involvement with gangs. Decl. of A.H. (June 22, 2017)
As mentioned later, it's not clear whether ICE was correct to classify these minors as
"unaccompanied minors" upon rearrest, at least to the extent the minors had been placed with
sponsors who are parents or legal guardians, but both sides assume that ICE was correct, and it's
not necessary to decide that question in the context of this motion.
On June 12, A.H. was arrested by two plainclothes ICE officers on the street near his
house. A.H. was placed in a cell in Central Islip, New York, and then in a cell in Manhattan.
Around 3:30 a.m. the next morning, A.H. was put on a flight to California. He was then taken to
the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility in Woodland, California. Decl. of A.H. (June 22,
2017) at 3-5. The detention facility where A.H. was sent is run by Yolo County, in the Eastern
District of California, pursuant to a contract with ORR. Supp. Decl. of Julia Mass (June 23,
2017), Ex. 2 at 1-3. Prior to his transfer, DHS reported to ORR that A.H. was gang affiliated and
provided a criminal history summary. This summary incorrectly reported the date for A.H.'s
2016 menacing and weapons charges, stating they had occurred a few weeks prior to his arrest
by ICE. The summary did not acknowledge that all of A.H.'s charges had been adjourned in
contemplation of dismissal. See Corkery Decl., Ex. B at 12:24-15:25, 47:14-49:6, 52:20-53:16;
Corkery Decl., Ex. N, Dkt. No. 68-3; Decl. of Daniel Loechner at 2, Dkt. No. 15-1.2
On June 22, 2017, while he was in the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility, A.H.
filed this lawsuit, which was captioned as a "Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus and Complaint
for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief." He brought the lawsuit against a variety of federal
defendants, including the Attorney General, the Secretary of HHS, and the Director of ORR.
The lawsuit also named as a defendant ORR Federal Field Specialist Elicia Smith, who is located
in San Francisco and is responsible for ensuring that the Yolo County Juvenile Detention Facility
performs its obligations under the contract with ORR. Finally, the lawsuit named Brent Cardall,
who, as Chief Probation Officer for Yolo County, is in charge of day-to-day operations at the
As the caption implies, the lawsuit sought two different types of relief. First, it sought a
The menacing and weapons possession charges have since been dismissed. Pls.' Mot. To
Further Supp. Record, Ex. 1, Dkt. No. 99.
Technically, A.H.'s mother has brought this lawsuit on behalf of her child (and the parents of
the other two minors have brought suit on behalf of their children), because minors can't bring
lawsuits on their own. But for ease of reference this ruling describes the lawsuit as having been
brought by the minors.
writ of habeas corpus. The purpose of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is typically to obtain
release from custody, based on a wrongful conviction or some other unlawful detention. Second,
A.H.'s lawsuit included a request for declaratory and injunctive relief. That is, he sought a
judicial declaration that his detention by the federal government was unlawful, and an injunction
requiring the government to either release him or give him a prompt hearing to allow him to
challenge the determination that he was dangerous and needed to be locked in a secure facility.
He asserted several different legal theories, including under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth
Amendment and the TVPRA. He also complained that ORR's conduct was preventing him from
participating in his ongoing immigration proceedings in New York. A.H. appeared to assert each
of these legal theories in connection with his pursuit of habeas relief as well as his pursuit
declaratory and injunctive relief, although the lawsuit was unclear on this point.4
Along with his lawsuit, A.H. filed an application for a temporary restraining order
("TRO") in which he asked the Court to order ORR to release him, or at least to require that
ORR give him an opportunity to contest the allegations that he was gang-affiliated or otherwise
dangerous enough to warrant placement in a secure facility. The Court held a hearing on a very
tight timeframe and ruled on the TRO application from the bench. The Court concluded that
A.H. had raised serious questions about whether the government had violated the TVPRA by
failing to give him an opportunity to demonstrate that ORR had not placed him in the least
restrictive setting appropriate for his circumstances, and ordered ORR to promptly provide him
that opportunity to be heard. Tr. of June 29, 2017 Hearing at 86-94, Dkt. No. 28. In response to
the presentation by A.H. and his lawyers regarding the alleged gang affiliation, ORR determined
that A.H. should be moved from the secure facility in Yolo County to a staff-secure facility
(which provides the middle level of security) in New York. See Notice of Decision, Ex. A at 5,
Dkt. No. 27-1; Decl. of James De La Cruz (Sept. 14, 2017) at 1, Dkt. No. 54-3. Counsel for
A.H. informed the Court at a case management conference that, in light of this transfer to a less
Usually a habeas petition is brought separately from a complaint for declaratory and injunctive
relief, but the government has not argued that it is improper to bring them together.
restrictive facility much closer to home and to his ongoing immigration proceedings, A.H. would
not be seeking further emergency relief by way of the TRO application.
On August 11, an amended lawsuit was filed. The amended lawsuit is again a combined
petition for a writ of habeas corpus and a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. But it
adds two other minors in ORR custody – F.E. and J.G. – both of whom had previously been
released by ORR to family members under sponsorship agreements. ICE arrested F.E. in Suffolk
County on June 16, presumably as part of Operation Matador, and transferred him to a secure
facility, Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Virginia, three days later. Decl. of Bryan S.
Johnson at 2, Dkt. No. 61-17. On July 6, F.E. was "stepped down" to a staff-secure facility in
Fairfield, California, and on August 4, F.E. was further stepped down to a shelter facility in
Lincolndale, New York. Decl. of James De La Cruz (Sept. 14, 2017) at 2. ICE also arrested J.G.
on June 16 in Suffolk County. He was transferred the following day to the secure facility in
Yolo County and, on July 26, was moved to a staff-secure facility in Tacoma, Washington. Id.;
Decl. of J.G. at 4-5, Dkt. No. 61-9.
The lawsuit seeks relief for not just the three minors who are now bringing the action, but
for a class of similarly situated minors in ORR custody. And the amended lawsuit names a wider
array of defendants. Recall that A.H.'s initial lawsuit named the Attorney General, officials in
HHS/ORR, and the person in charge of the Yolo detention facility. The new lawsuit continues to
name those people as defendants, but adds the Acting Secretary of DHS and other officials
within DHS/ICE. It also adds Jose Esquivel, an employee of the private nonprofit organization
BCFS Health and Human Services, which operates, pursuant to a contract with ORR, the
Fairfield staff-secure facility that F.E. passed through. Esquivel is the interim program director
of that facility.
The amended lawsuit also asserts a somewhat different series of legal theories (all of
which, again, seem to be put forward in connection with both the request for habeas relief and
the request for declaratory/injunctive relief). The first alleged legal violation is that the minors
were unlawfully arrested in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the TVPRA, and the
Administrative Procedure Act. (This new claim for unlawful arrest is why the amended lawsuit
added the defendants from DHS/ICE – those officials were responsible for the arrests.) The
second alleged legal violation is that the minors were deprived of their liberty without procedural
due process, contrary to the Fifth Amendment. The third is that the minors were deprived of
their liberty in violation of the substantive component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth
Amendment and the TVPRA. The plaintiffs further allege that the defendants violated the terms
of the consent decree in Flores v. Reno, which sets standards the government must follow in
housing noncitizen minors, and that the defendants interfered with their First and Fifth
Amendment rights to access the courts and petition the government.5
The federal defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the entire case, on a variety of
procedural and substantive grounds. The most significant procedural objections, described more
fully below, are that there is no habeas jurisdiction in this judicial district with respect to any of
the three minors, and that this district is also not the proper venue for their declaratory and
injunctive relief claims. Meanwhile, the two non-federal defendants (Cardall, the official who
runs the Yolo County detention facility, and Esquivel, the employee of the nonprofit
organization that operates the facility in Fairfield) have filed motions to dismiss on the ground
that they are not proper defendants in this lawsuit.
In turn, the minors have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, and they seek to
provisionally certify a class of unaccompanied minors for purposes of that motion. The minors
contend that at least thirteen others have been arrested for similar reasons and are being detained
without a meaningful opportunity to contest the basis for their detention. The minors assert only
two of their legal theories in support of their request for a class-wide preliminary injunction:
unlawful arrest and violation of procedural due process.
The minors and their attorneys ask the Court to rule quickly on their request for a
The new petition/complaint also alleged a sixth claim for interference with the minors' right to
counsel, but the plaintiffs have since agreed to dismiss that claim. Pls.' Consol. Br. at 19 n.7,
Dkt. No. 61-1.
preliminary injunction. That is understandable – the minors are in custody, they've been in
custody for several months now, and they contend the custody is unlawful. But the manner in
which this action was brought and then expanded (beginning with a combined habeas petition
and complaint by A.H., then growing to a combined habeas petition and complaint by three
different minors, held in three different facilities around the country, against an expanded group
of defendants, seeking relief not merely for themselves but for all other similarly situated
undocumented minors) creates a host of difficult and time-consuming procedural questions. This
puts the Court in a difficult position. In an effort to balance the need for a prompt ruling on the
request for preliminary injunctive relief for minors being detained by the federal government
against the need to ensure that such relief would be procedurally and substantively proper, this
ruling addresses only the strongest claim for preliminary injunctive relief and only the one with
no potentially significant procedural obstacles to granting that relief. The issues presented by the
pending motions that are not decided in this ruling will remain under submission.
As discussed, three people are now suing in this case. They have combined two distinct
types of action in this one lawsuit – a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and a complaint for
declaratory and injunctive relief. They assert a variety of different legal claims, under a variety
of different constitutional provisions and statutes, against a variety of different defendants. The
case largely arises from a law enforcement operation that took place in New York and the
implementation of policies developed in Washington, D.C. The first task, therefore, is to
determine which people may properly sue in this judicial district, which types of action they may
bring, and which defendants they may sue.
For the reasons that follow, A.H. may pursue habeas relief in this judicial district against
Elicia Smith, the local ORR official. However, F.E. and J.G. may not pursue habeas relief in this
district, because they have not named the proper respondents, nor do the proper respondents
reside in this district. Furthermore, F.E. and J.G. may not pursue their claims for declaratory and
injunctive relief in this district, because venue is not proper for those claims. F.E. and J.G. are
therefore dismissed as named plaintiffs, without prejudice to refiling their actions in the
The most difficult procedural question is whether A.H. may, in conjunction with seeking
habeas relief in this district, pursue his action for additional declaratory and injunctive relief
here. In light of the unusual circumstances of this case, the Court will exercise its discretion to
adjudicate the declaratory and injunctive relief claims under the doctrine of pendent venue, rather
than requiring A.H. to pursue habeas relief in this judicial district while pursuing his closelyintertwined declaratory and injunctive relief claims in a different judicial district.
The first question is whether A.H. may seek habeas relief in this district. The
government contends there is no habeas jurisdiction here, because A.H.'s custodian at the time he
brought his original lawsuit does not reside here. As the government notes, when A.H. brought
his habeas claim, he was held in the Juvenile Detention Facility in Yolo County, which is in the
Eastern District of California. This means, according to the government, that the proper
respondent to A.H.'s habeas petition is the head of the Detention Facility. In support of its
position, the government cites Rumsfeld v. Padilla, a case that structures the inquiry but which
does not resolve whether this Court has habeas jurisdiction over A.H. 542 U.S. 426, 435 n.8
Rumsfeld v. Padilla applied the "immediate custodian rule" to a habeas petition filed by a
U.S. citizen detained in military custody in South Carolina. See id. at 430-32, 442. The
The parties don't contest that, as to A.H., the relevant time period for purposes of determining
the proper respondent is when he filed his initial habeas petition, notwithstanding his later
transfer to a different facility and his decision to amend his pleading after that transfer. See
Mujahid v. Daniels, 413 F.3d 991, 994 (9th Cir. 2005) ("[J]urisdiction attaches on the initial
filing for habeas corpus relief, and it is not destroyed by a transfer of the petitioner and the
accompanying custodial change." (quoting Francis v. Rison, 894 F.2d 353, 354 (9th Cir. 1990)));
see also 28 U.S.C. § 2242; Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(B); Padilla, 542 U.S. at 441 ("[W]hen the
Government moves a habeas petitioner after she properly files a petition naming her immediate
custodian, the District Court retains jurisdiction and may direct the writ to any respondent within
its jurisdiction who has legal authority to effectuate the prisoner's release.").
immediate custodian rule is the long-held "default rule" that the proper respondent to a habeas
petition challenging present physical confinement "is the warden of the facility where [a]
prisoner is being held, not the Attorney General or some other remote supervisory official." Id.
at 435-39; see also Wales v. Whitney, 114 U.S. 564, 574 (1885). Unlike a typical habeas
petitioner challenging imprisonment following a criminal conviction, Padilla challenged
detention resulting from a military order by the President deeming him an enemy combatant.
542 U.S. at 431. The Supreme Court concluded that, notwithstanding the unique circumstances
leading to his detention, Padilla's habeas petition was ultimately still a challenge to present
physical confinement by the executive branch and, as such, jurisdiction was governed by the
default rule. Id. at 441-42. Applying the immediate custodian rule to Padilla's case, the Court
held that the only proper respondent to his habeas petition was the commander in charge of the
brig in South Carolina where he was held. Id. at 439-42.
Because Padilla had named the correct respondent, among other officials, the Court then
turned to the question whether the Southern District of New York, the federal court in which
Padilla's petition was filed, had habeas jurisdiction over that petition.7 The Court interpreted its
prior cases addressing the scope of habeas jurisdiction as consistent with "the general rule that
for core habeas petitions challenging present physical confinement, jurisdiction lies in only one
district: the district of confinement." Id. at 443. It then applied that rule to Padilla's case,
concluding that Padilla was required to file in the District of South Carolina, the district of his
confinement, and that the Southern District of New York therefore could not entertain Padilla's
petition. Id. at 451.
Padilla refused to decide who the proper respondent is in the immigration detention
context, and no controlling authority since has resolved the issue. See id. at 435 n.8.8 Courts
The Court made clear that the term "jurisdiction" as used in the habeas statute, 28 U.S.C. §
2241(a), and the Padilla opinion was not equivalent to subject-matter jurisdiction. 542 U.S. at
434 n.7; see also id. at 451 (Kennedy, J., concurring) (viewing the concept of habeas jurisdiction
as akin to personal jurisdiction or venue).
In a pre-Padilla opinion that was later withdrawn, the Ninth Circuit held that the proper
have taken various approaches. Some have applied the immediate custodian rule in a
straightforward fashion. See, e.g., Kholyavskiy v. Achim, 443 F.3d 946, 953 (7th Cir. 2006)
(warden of the county facility holding an immigration detainee was the proper respondent); Nken
v. Napolitano, 607 F. Supp. 2d 149, 159-61 (D.D.C. 2009) (correct respondent was the warden of
the facility holding an individual subject to a final order of removal); Zhen Yi Guo v. Napolitano,
No. 09 CIV 3023 PGG, 2009 WL 2840400, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 2, 2009) (warden of county
prison was the appropriate respondent).
Other courts have held that national-level policymaking officials are proper respondents.
See, e.g., Carmona v. Aitken, No. 14-CV-05321-JSC, 2015 WL 1737839, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Apr.
10, 2015) (U.S. Attorney General and DHS Secretary were the proper respondents, as officials
"with the actual authority to effectuate the prisoner's release"); Bogarin-Flores v. Napolitano,
No. 12CV0399 JAH (WMC), 2012 WL 3283287, at *2 (S.D. Cal. Aug. 10, 2012) (Attorney
General and DHS were the proper respondents, not the warden of the contract facility in which
the petitioner was held); Farez-Espinoza v. Chertoff, 600 F. Supp. 2d 488, 494 (S.D.N.Y. 2009)
(DHS Secretary and Attorney General were proper respondents); see also Santos v. Smith, No.
5:17-CV-00020, 2017 WL 2389722, at *8 (W.D. Va. June 1, 2017) (declining to dismiss ORR
director where a minor was held in an ORR contract facility).
Still other courts have concluded that the federal agent charged with overseeing the nonfederal detention facility in which the noncitizen is held should be sued. See Khodr v. Adduci,
697 F. Supp. 2d 774, 776 (E.D. Mich. 2010) (proper respondent was the ICE District Director,
not the warden of county jail); Abner v. Sec'y of Dep't of Homeland Security, No.
respondents to a habeas petition in the immigration context were the Attorney General and the
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Armentero v. INS, 340 F.3d 1058, 1071-74
(9th Cir. 2003), reh'g granted, opinion withdrawn, 382 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 2004). Rather than
revisit the issue after withdrawing the opinion, the Ninth Circuit panel dismissed the appeal on
grounds unrelated to the question of the proper respondent. Armentero v. INS, 412 F.3d 1088
(9th Cir. 2005). Judge Berzon dissented from that order and expressed the view that the panel's
prior position was consistent with Padilla. Id. at 1090 (Berzon, J., dissenting).
06CV308(JBA), 2006 WL 1699607, at *3-4 (D. Conn. June 19, 2006) (ICE field office director,
not warden of county facility, was the correct respondent); Zabadi v. Chertoff, No. C 05-01796
WHA, 2005 WL 1514122, at *3 (N.D. Cal. June 17, 2005) (ICE district director, also known as
the field office director, who could direct the county warden to release the petitioner was the
proper respondent); see also Roman v. Ashcroft, 340 F.3d 314, 320 (6th Cir. 2003) (INS District
Director for the area including the detention center was the proper respondent).
There is no compelling distinction between criminal custody and immigration custody as
such. Courts holding that immigration cases should be treated differently, and that the Attorney
General or Secretary of DHS should be the proper respondent in those cases, tend to base this
conclusion on the fact that these national officials have the true authority to order the release of
the detainee. But if that logic drove the "proper respondent" inquiry, Padilla would have come
out differently. Under the logic of Padilla, there's no reason to conclude that, if A.H. were
confined in a detention facility administered by federal immigration officials when he brought
his habeas petition, he could have named anyone other than the federal official acting as the
warden of that facility.
But A.H. faced a different situation here: he was held in a facility run by an entity other
than the federal government, pursuant to a contract with the federal government. Where a
petitioner is held in a facility solely pursuant to a contract, rather than by the state or federal
government itself, application of the immediate custodian rule must take account of that fact.
See, e.g., Bogarin-Flores, 2012 WL 3283287, at *2. Instead of naming the individual in charge
of the contract facility – who may be a county official or an employee of a private nonprofit
organization – a petitioner held in federal detention in a non-federal facility pursuant to a
contract should sue the federal official most directly responsible for overseeing that contract
facility when seeking a habeas writ. In other words, the distinction is not between a "traditional"
detention and an immigration-related detention. The distinction is between a case where the
detainee is held in a federal facility, and a case where the detainee is held in a facility operated
by some other entity pursuant to contract with the federal government.
This rule is a sensible reconciliation of Padilla's instruction to look to the person with
"the power to produce the body of [the petitioner] before the court," ordinarily the warden of the
facility holding the petitioner, and the reality that the named plaintiffs are being held in federal
custody by other-than-federal actors who are poorly situated to defend federal interests. Padilla,
542 U.S. at 435 (citation omitted). When A.H. filed his original habeas petition, he was held in a
secure facility administered by Yolo County. Decl. of A.H. (June 22, 2017) at 5-6. The federal
defendants contend that A.H. should have named only Cardall, the Chief Probation Officer for
Yolo County, as a respondent, because Cardall acted as the warden of that secure facility. But a
Yolo County employee has custody of an immigration detainee like A.H. only to the extent
provided by the facility's contract with the federal government. It is pursuant to the power and
authority of the federal government – not Yolo County – that A.H. is in custody. So, the federal
official with most immediate control over the facility holding the petitioner – that is, the federal
official tasked with ensuring that Yolo County complies with the requirements of its contract
with ORR – is the proper respondent.
This case provides a telling example of the conflicts of interest that could arise under the
government's contrary rule. Were Cardall the only proper respondent to A.H.'s habeas petition,
he would presumably be tasked with defending the federal government's decision to hold A.H. in
custody. But Cardall, who is not a federal actor and who is not represented by the Department of
Justice in this case, has taken the position that the Yolo County Probation Department did not
have just cause to keep most of the undocumented minors that passed through Yolo County prior
to August 26, 2017 in secure custody. See Corkery Decl., Ex. C at 3; Corkery Decl., Ex. D, Dkt.
No. 61-3. Requiring Cardall to be the sole defender of the federal government's interests under
the circumstances would make little sense. Padilla, which held that the federal actor with
immediate control over the petitioner was the proper respondent for a petitioner in federal
custody, does not stand for the proposition that a person in what is indisputably federal custody
should sue a county official like Cardall (or, as would be true in many cases, an employee of a
private nonprofit organization) to seek habeas relief.
Therefore, A.H. properly sued Federal Field Specialist Elicia Smith, the federal official
tasked with enforcing the contract pursuant to which A.H. was held in Yolo County. ORR
Senior Field Program Specialist Supervisor James De La Cruz agreed that it was Smith's
responsibility to make "sure that [ORR] policies regarding the custody of unaccompanied minors
are followed by those county officials." Corkery Decl., Ex. B at 80. She "has jurisdiction over
the . . . detention of persons under ORR supervision within th[e] geographic area" including
Yolo County, and her responsibilities include "ensur[ing] that children placed under the auspices
of the Office of Refugee Resettlement receive the services required by the Office of Refugee
Resettlement, and that the programs that are in [the] geographical . . . location assigned to her
follow ORR's policies and procedures . . . ." Id. at 54-55. Since it appears that she is the
individual most immediately responsible for enforcing the federal contract under whose authority
A.H. is held, she is the proper target of his habeas petition.9
What makes Smith the proper respondent with respect to A.H. is not any power to make
binding decisions about A.H.'s custody. The record strongly suggests she had no such authority
over A.H. when he was in her custody, just as the commander of the brig in Padilla did not
actually have legal authority to release Padilla. See Decl. of James De La Cruz (Sept. 14, 2017)
at 1-2, Dkt. No. 54-3; Decl. of James De La Cruz (June 27, 2017) at 3-4, Dkt. No. 15-2.
Although one can imagine a sensible contrary rule, Padilla instructs courts not to look to the
official who exercises legal control over the petitioner where present physical confinement is at
issue. 542 U.S. at 439. Otherwise, Padilla cautions, any convicted federal prisoner could name
the Attorney General as a respondent, a result "the statutory language, established practice, and
[Supreme Court] precedent" counsel against. Id. at 439-40. At least where a readily identifiable
federal official exercises more immediate control over a contract facility than the Attorney
General or another department head, as is the case here, Padilla requires a petitioner challenging
Particularly in a situation in which it is difficult to discern who has oversight responsibility with
respect to a given contract facility, the director of the local office might also be a proper
present physical custody to name that more immediate official. See Abner, 2006 WL 1699607,
Because Smith is the proper respondent, this Court has habeas jurisdiction over A.H.'s
habeas petition. So long as the proper respondent falls within this Court's territorial jurisdiction,
habeas jurisdiction exists. See Padilla, 542 U.S. at 442-44. No party disputes that Elicia Smith
is based in San Francisco, within this Court's territorial jurisdiction. See Corkery Decl., Ex. B at
54; Corkery Decl., Ex. E (HHS) at 4493-94, 5733, Dkt. No. 68-4. A.H.'s individual habeas
petition therefore is properly before this court, even if the practical effect of habeas relief would
be that the conduct of officials elsewhere, and not the conduct of Smith, is affected.10
When the amended complaint was filed, J.G. and F.E. joined the case, and they sought
habeas relief as well. However, unlike A.H., who was confined in Yolo County when he first
filed the case on his own, J.G. and F.E. were not in ORR custody in California when they joined
the case. Rather, J.G. was detained by ORR in a contract facility in Tacoma, Washington, and
F.E. was in a contract facility in Lincolndale, New York. See Am. Pet. at 22, 24, Dkt. No. 31.
It is true that Padilla states that a "core" habeas petition challenging present confinement
should be filed in the "district of confinement." 542 U.S. at 443. Here, that district is arguably
the Eastern District of California, which has territorial jurisdiction over Yolo County. However,
Padilla also emphasizes that the habeas writ is directed toward the respondent. Id. at 442.
Padilla did not address a situation where the custodian was physically located in a different
district than the petitioner, and nothing in that opinion suggests that anything other than the
respondent's location controls under the present circumstances. See id. at 442-47. Several courts
considering analogous contractual arrangements in the criminal context have taken a similar
approach. For instance, in Al-Amin v. Davis, the petitioner was serving a Georgia state court
sentence in a federal prison in Colorado, pursuant to a contract between the Georgia Department
of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. No. 12-CV-01197-BNB, 2012 WL 1698175,
at *1 (D. Colo. May 15, 2012). The U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado concluded
that, under the circumstances, the Georgia Department of Corrections remained the petitioner's
"true custodian," and therefore transferred the case to a federal court in Georgia. Id. at *3; see
also Holder v. Curley, 749 F. Supp. 2d 644, 646-47 (E.D. Mich. 2010) (listing cases in which
courts transferred a case "to the jurisdiction of conviction when the petitioner is housed in
another state only for the convenience of and pursuant to a contractual relationship with the state
wherein the conviction was rendered").
J.G. and F.E. do not contend that Elicia Smith is responsible for overseeing the operation of these
ORR facilities in Washington and New York, nor do they name any other respondent who could
plausibly be construed to be their immediate custodian. The plaintiffs instead contend that Smith
is a proper respondent for J.G. and F.E. because it is possible that J.G. and F.E. will be returned
to her custody in the future. Pls.' Reply Br. at 19-20, Dkt. No. 73. But as already discussed,
where a habeas petitioner challenges his present physical confinement, as J.G. and F.E. do,
Padilla leaves no room for him to select the proper respondent from among possible future
custodians. See 542 U.S. at 439.
In light of the interpretation of Padilla articulated above, J.G. and F.E. have not named
the proper respondents to their habeas petitions – the Federal Field Specialists (or perhaps the
directors of the regional offices) charged with overseeing the contract facilities in which they
presently are held. Even had they named the appropriate federal custodians, it is unlikely that
this Court would have habeas jurisdiction over them, as the proper respondents presumably are
based in the Pacific Northwest and on the East Coast. Accordingly, J.G. and F.E.'s individual
habeas petitions must be dismissed without prejudice. See Stanley v. Cal. Supreme Court, 21
F.3d 359, 360 (9th Cir. 1994), as amended (May 18, 1994).
Although this Court does not have jurisdiction over J.G. and F.E.'s habeas petitions, their
claims for declaratory and injunctive relief could in theory proceed separately in this district.
But because venue is not proper in this district for these additional claims, J.G. and F.E. will be
dismissed entirely from this case.
Because the defendants here have challenged venue, the burden is on the plaintiffs to
demonstrate that venue is proper in the Northern District of California. United Tactical Sys. LLC
v. Real Action Paintball, Inc., 108 F. Supp. 3d 733, 751 (N.D. Cal. 2015); see also Piedmont
Label Co. v. Sun Garden Packing Co., 598 F.2d 491, 496 (9th Cir. 1979). In the absence of any
nexus to this district grounded in habeas, J.G. and F.E. must show that their declaratory and
injunctive relief claims are independently subject to venue in this Court. Whether they can
depends on the provisions of the federal venue statute, which provides that, in a case against a
federal officer acting in her official capacity, venue is proper where "(A) a defendant in the
action resides, (B) a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred .
. . , or (C) the plaintiff resides if no real property is involved in the action." 28 U.S.C. §
1391(e)(1). The Court works through these different bases for venue in reverse.
The first inquiry is straightforward. There is no contention that J.G. and F.E. reside in
this district. Both J.G. and F.E. lived in Brentwood, New York prior to their arrests. Decl. of
J.G. at 2, Dkt. No. 61-9; Decl. of F.E. at 1, Dkt. No. 61-11. When the amended complaint was
filed, J.G. was detained in Tacoma, Washington, while F.E. was detained in Lincolndale, New
York. Decl. of J.G. at 5; Decl. of F.E. at 4.
The second inquiry is somewhat closer, but the Court ultimately concludes that only an
insubstantial portion of the events giving rise to J.G. and F.E's claims occurred in this district.
"To determine whether a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claim occurred in the
forum, the court first considers what acts or omissions by the defendants give rise to the
plaintiffs' claims." United Tactical Sys. LLC, 108 F. Supp. 3d at 752 (alteration and citation
omitted). After "identif[ying] the alleged wrongful acts, the court must determine whether a
substantial part of those acts took place in the forum." All. for Multilingual Multicultural Educ.
v. Garcia, No. C 11-0215 PJH, 2011 WL 2532478, at *7 (N.D. Cal. June 24, 2011) (citing
Daniel v. Am. Bd. of Emergency Med., 428 F.3d 408, 432 (2d Cir. 2005); and Jenkins Brick Co.
v. Bremer, 321 F.3d 1366, 1372 (11th Cir. 2003)).
Some of J.G. and F.E.'s declaratory and injunctive relief claims are predicated on their
allegedly unlawful arrests by ICE agents in New York. The remainder are based on the absence
of any process provided by DHS and ORR for ensuring a reliable factual basis for their rearrests
and detentions in ORR facilities, with the minors arguing that they should have received a
hearing either before they were arrested in New York, or immediately after they were arrested in
New York and before they were transferred across the country. Every indication is that DHS and
ORR handled J.G. and F.E.'s cases in accordance with nationwide agency policy, set in
Washington, D.C. See Corkery Decl., Ex. E (HHS) at 3728-31, Dkt. No. 60-3; Corkery Decl.,
Ex. N. Pursuant to those challenged DHS and ORR policies, J.G. and F.E. were detained in
various locations, each of which might give rise to venue but none of which was in the Northern
District of California. J.G. was transferred to a secure detention facility in Yolo County, in the
Eastern District of California, shortly after his arrest, and then to a staff-secure facility in
Tacoma, Washington, where he remains. Decl. of J.G. at 4-5. F.E. was first transferred to a
secure facility in Shenandoah, Virginia, then to a staff-secure facility in Fairfield, California –
also in the Eastern District – and finally to a shelter facility in New York. Decl. of F.E. at 3-4.
The evidence shows that ORR officials in Washington, D.C., and Phoenix approved each of
these custody changes. Decl. of James De La Cruz Decl. (Sept. 14, 2017) at 1-2.
Although none of these events took place in the Northern District, the plaintiffs contend
that Smith's involvement in J.G. and F.E.'s cases is sufficient to constitute a "substantial part of
the events" giving rise to their claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The plaintiffs allege
that Smith "serves as the approval authority for transfer and release decisions" regarding the
named plaintiffs and proposed class members, but the evidence does not bear out this allegation.
Am. Pet. at 3, 5, Dkt. No. 31; see Doe 1 v. AOL LLC, 552 F.3d 1077, 1081 (9th Cir. 2009)
(stating that, when assessing a motion to dismiss for improper venue, "pleadings need not be
accepted as true, and facts outside the pleadings may be considered").
The record merely shows that Smith was ORR's point of contact with Yolo County. She
ensured that Yolo County was aware of ORR's policies, facilitated communication between more
senior ORR officials and Yolo County officials, and received feedback on the appropriateness of
the named plaintiffs' placements. Corkery Decl., Ex. F (YOLO) at 60-61, 69-70, Dkt. No. 60-4;
Ex. E (HHS) at 818-19, 4493-94, 5904-11. Smith also helped coordinate the response to the
earlier TRO application in this case. Corkery Decl., Ex. E (HHS) at 5904-11. And after this
Court granted the TRO application, she was apparently involved in helping ensure compliance
with the Court's order, seeking corroborating information that would justify the minors' initial
placements in secure facilities. Corkery Decl., Ex. E (HHS) at 5734; Ex. F. (YOLO) at 13-16,
39-44. But this conduct largely took place after the fact – that is, after the allegedly unlawful
arrest, and after the allegedly unlawful decision to deny A.H. a hearing before shipping him
across the country to Yolo County.
It's true that the venue statute "does not require that a majority of the events have
occurred in the district where suit is filed, nor does it require that the events in that district
predominate." United Tactical Sys. LLC, 108 F. Supp. 3d at 752 (quoting Rodriguez v. Cal.
Highway Patrol, 89 F. Supp. 2d 1131, 1136 (N.D. Cal. 2000)). But "significant events or
omissions material to the plaintiff's claim must have occurred in the district in question, even if
other material events occurred elsewhere." Id. (citation omitted). In comparison to the primary
events and omissions giving rise to J.G. and F.E.'s declaratory and injunctive relief claims – their
arrests, their lack of a hearing before being transferred to ORR facilities, and their continued
detention in those facilities without a proper assessment of dangerousness – Smith's role is
marginal, not significant.
The final inquiry under the venue statute turns on a related analysis: whether Elicia
Smith, the only defendant who resides in the Northern District of California, is a proper
defendant as to J.G. and F.E.'s declaratory and injunctive relief claims. If she is, then it seems
venue would be proper as to all the federal defendants. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(1) (providing
that venue in a lawsuit against a federal officer exists "where a defendant in the action resides"
(emphasis added)). But she is not a proper defendant.
As described above, Smith played a relatively minor role in the trajectory of the named
plaintiffs' arrest and custody. She was not involved in the New York arrests, nor is there any
evidence she was involved in developing the current policy providing for the transfer of
previously released noncitizen minors to secure ORR custody without prior notice and an
opportunity to be heard. Accordingly, the declaratory and injunctive relief the plaintiffs seek –
which aims to halt such arrests and impose a process for testing the factual basis for detaining a
previously released minor – is not directed at Smith, who appears to have no policy-making
authority and no ability to finally approve placement decisions regarding minors in the named
plaintiffs' position. See Am. Pet. at 35-37; Decl. of James De La Cruz (June 27, 2017) at 3-4.
To the extent Smith might be implicated at all by the amended petition's requested relief, it is
only as to the request to release A.H. from custody, in other words, the habeas relief already
discussed. Smith is therefore not a proper defendant to J.G. and F.E.'s declaratory and injunctive
relief claims. She thus cannot serve as the anchor to the Northern District of California that
makes venue proper in this district for their non-habeas claims.
Finally, the fact that J.G. and F.E. seek to be named plaintiffs alongside A.H., whose
action is properly brought in this district, does not allow them to overcome these venue
problems. At least in most instances, the rule in a proposed class action is that each named
plaintiff must independently establish venue. See Ambriz v. Coca Cola Co., No. 13-CV-03539JST, 2014 WL 296159, at *5 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 27, 2014) (citing Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.,
No. 1-cr-2252-MJJ, 2001 WL 1902806 (N.D. Cal. Dec. 3, 2001) for the proposition that "the
general rule [is] that each plaintiff in a class action must individually satisfy venue"); Amochaev
v. Citigroup Glob. Markets Inc., No. C-05-1298 PJH, 2007 WL 484778, at *1 (N.D. Cal. Feb.
12, 2007). The plaintiffs have provided no convincing explanation for why that rule should not
Therefore, along with their habeas claims, the declaratory and injunctive relief claims by
J.G. and F.E. are dismissed without prejudice. This means J.G. and F.E. are dismissed entirely
as named plaintiffs from this lawsuit.11
Notwithstanding the conclusion that there is habeas jurisdiction over A.H.'s petition in
this district, whether venue is proper for A.H.'s additional declaratory and injunctive relief claims
is a separate and difficult question. For the same reasons discussed above, Elicia Smith, the only
defendant with a nexus to this district, is not the proper defendant for the separate declaratory
It's worth noting that, even though J.G. and F.E.'s individual claims were not properly brought
in this forum, as members of the proposed class, they could still benefit from relief granted on a
and injunctive relief A.H. seeks.12 And, even as to A.H., no substantial portion of the events
giving rise to his declaratory and injunctive relief claims occurred here. Like J.G. and F.E., A.H.
grounds these additional claims on an arrest that occurred in New York and the absence of a
prompt and adequate process for challenging the bases for that arrest and his subsequent
detention in ORR custody. Importantly, A.H. seeks through this lawsuit to implement a process
that would occur before similarly situated minors are transported from their place of arrest to
Yolo County, where they might plausibly fall under Smith's jurisdiction.
Because there appears to be no independent basis for venue over declaratory and
injunctive relief claims going beyond the relief sought in A.H.'s habeas petition, venue in this
district would have to arise under the doctrine of pendent venue. Under this doctrine, "[o]nce a
court has determined that venue is proper as to one claim, it may exercise pendent venue to
adjudicate closely related claims." United Tactical Sys. LLC, 108 F. Supp. 3d at 753; see also,
e.g., Beattie v. United States, 756 F.2d 91, 100-04 (D.C. Cir.1984), overruled on other grounds
in Smith v. United States, 507 U.S. 197 (1993); Legal Additions LLC v. Kowalski, No. C-08-2754
EMC, 2009 WL 1226957, at *11 (N.D. Cal. Apr. 30, 2009). Whether to do so is a discretionary
determination, and informing the exercise of discretion are "principles of judicial economy,
convenience, avoidance of piecemeal litigation, and fairness to the litigants." Am. Civil Liberties
Union of N. Cal. v. Burwell, No. 16-CV-03539-LB, 2017 WL 4551492, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 11,
2017); see also Martensen v. Koch, 942 F. Supp. 2d 983, 998 (N.D. Cal. 2013), on
reconsideration in part, No. C-12-05257 JSC, 2013 WL 4734000 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 3, 2013).
On the one hand, A.H.'s habeas petition is properly before this Court, and it's quite clear
There is, to be sure, some tension in saying that a person can be a proper respondent – indeed,
perhaps the only proper respondent – to a habeas petition and yet an improper defendant to the
same petitioner's claims for declaratory and injunctive relief targeting the same official actions
that resulted in the allegedly unlawful detention. This tension appears to be a natural result of
the Supreme Court's instruction to name not the person exercising legal control over a habeas
petitioner as the respondent but instead the immediate custodian.
that any additional declaratory and injunctive relief he seeks is closely related to the factual and
legal bases for his habeas petition. The same witnesses and evidence are relevant to both sets of
claims. Resolution of each requires this Court to identify DHS and ORR's policies and practices
concerning children released to sponsors who are later rearrested, as well as to evaluate the
statutory, constitutional, and contractual limits that circumscribe those policies and practices.
Where a case is built around a "single wrong, common issues of proof, and similar witnesses,"
pendent venue is more likely to be appropriate. Am. Civil Liberties Union of N. Cal., 2017 WL
4551492, at *5. Further, the federal government and its lawyers are already required to appear in
this district to defend against A.H.'s habeas petition, so the additional burden imposed on the
government by requiring it to defend against A.H.'s declaratory and injunctive relief claims, too,
is minimal. In contrast, requiring A.H. to split his claims would result in duplicative proceedings
concerning the same series of events regarding his arrest and custody, the same policies, and the
same legal theories. And, as A.H. and those similarly situated are minors detained in federal
custody, a rule that requires him to file two lawsuits about the same series of events in two
separate forums seems unduly burdensome.
On the other hand, additional defendants are implicated by A.H.'s claims for declaratory
and injunctive relief, and pendent venue is generally invoked to decide additional claims between
the same parties. See, e.g., Martensen, 942 F. Supp. 2d at 998; Charles Alan Wright et al.,
Venue Issues Raised by Assertion of Multiple Claims, Including Exercise of "Pendent Venue,"
14D Fed. Prac. & Proc. Juris. § 3808 (4th ed. 2017). However, this court would not be the first
to conclude that the concerns animating pendent venue can apply with equal force where closely
related claims against additional defendants are at issue. See Pacer Glob. Logistics, Inc. v. Nat'l
Passenger R.R. Corp., 272 F. Supp. 2d 784, 789-91 (E.D. Wis. 2003) (applying the doctrine of
pendent venue to hear claims against a defendant over which the court otherwise would not have
had venue and noting that, "[i]f two or more claims arise out of the same set of facts, it is
wasteful of judicial resources and unfair to one or more of the parties to require that the claims
be litigated in separate judicial districts"). But see Gamboa v. USA Cycling, Inc., No. 2:12-CV-
10051-ODW (MRWx), 2013 WL 1700951, at *4 (C.D. Cal. Apr. 18, 2013) (rejecting the notion
of "pendent-party venue"). In a somewhat analogous procedural context, courts often conclude
that they may hear claims against third-party defendants added to a case after it is filed, even
though venue would not otherwise be proper over those third-party defendants. See, e.g., Gundle
Lining Constr. Corp. v. Adams Cty. Asphalt, Inc., 85 F.3d 201, 209 (5th Cir. 1996) ("[S]tatutory
venue limitations have no application to Rule 14 claims even if they would require the thirdparty action to be heard in another district had it been brought as an independent action."
(citation omitted)); Stronghold Sec. LLC v. Sectek, Inc., 582 F. Supp. 2d 726, 728 (D. Md. 2008)
("Under the doctrine of ancillary venue, third party defendants do not have standing to challenge
the venue of the primary action."); Wright et al., supra, § 3808. Courts have allowed such
claims to proceed even though a forum that does not otherwise satisfy venue requirements is as
likely to be inconvenient for a third-party defendant as for an original defendant.
Although it's a close question, application of the doctrine of pendent venue is warranted
here. A.H.'s habeas, declaratory, and injunctive relief claims challenge one course of conduct,
carried out by various federal actors, and one part of his case is clearly before this Court; indeed,
this Court may well be the only place he can bring his habeas petition. Moreover, the concerns
that would normally attend application of pendent venue to claims against new defendants –
namely, the inconvenience and expense imposed on the additional defendants – are attenuated
where all the defendants objecting to venue are also federal officers. See Kings Cty. Econ. Cmty.
Dev. Ass'n v. Hardin, 333 F. Supp. 1302, 1303 (N.D. Cal. 1971) (noting that Congress amended
the federal venue statute to "make it easier to sue" the "head of a governmental department"); but
see Am. Civil Liberties Union of N. Cal., 2017 WL 4551492, at *5 (questioning whether an
exercise of pendent venue would be appropriate in the context of claims against the government).
The Department of Justice has appeared in this case to represent all the federal defendants for
purposes of defending the lawfulness of A.H.'s custody. In light of the statutory framework
governing his detention, this defense will involve the actions of multiple agencies, acting
pursuant to several statutes. Judicial economy, convenience, and avoidance of piecemeal
litigation all counsel in favor of evaluating the decisions of these actors at once.13
Having concluded that all of A.H.'s claims may proceed in this district, the Court must
next determine whether to grant his motion for a preliminary injunction. And, because A.H.
seeks relief on behalf of a class of similarly situated minors in ORR custody, the Court must also
decide whether it is appropriate to provisionally certify the plaintiffs' proposed class for purposes
of issuing a preliminary injunction.
A.H. seeks, on behalf of the proposed class, a preliminary injunction to halt the practices
giving rise to his unlawful arrest and Fifth Amendment procedural due process claims. He also
seeks his own immediate release from ORR custody, on the theory that his continued
confinement violates his substantive due process rights and the Flores consent decree. Pls.'
Consol. Br. at 31 n.21.
To obtain a preliminary injunction, A.H. "must establish that he is likely to succeed on
the merits, that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, that the
balance of equities tips in his favor, and that an injunction is in the public interest." Winter v.
Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). He may also be able to obtain preliminary
injunctive relief if he has raised "serious questions going to the merits" and the balance of
hardships "tips sharply towards" granting an injunction, so long as he also shows that he is likely
to suffer irreparable harm and that the injunction is in the public interest. Disney Enters., Inc. v.
VidAngel, Inc., 869 F.3d 848, 856 (9th Cir. 2017) (quoting All. for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell,
632 F.3d 1127, 1134-35 (9th Cir. 2011)).
In light of the time-sensitive nature of the claims at issue in this case, the Court addresses
in this order only the claim on which A.H. is most likely to succeed on the merits: his procedural
due process claim. The remainder of the claims on which A.H. seeks preliminary injunctive
Because the allegations against the two non-federal defendants, Cardall and Esquivel, are
based only on their roles as one-time custodians of A.H., F.E., and J.G. under federal contract,
and because they are not the proper respondents for any of the named minors' habeas petitions,
Cardall and Esquivel's motions to dismiss are granted.
relief will remain under submission, as will the aspects of defendants' motions to dismiss not
addressed by this order.
When the federal government has previously deemed an unaccompanied minor suitable
for placement in the community with a sponsor, and when federal agents later arrest and detain
the minor based on allegations of gang affiliation, the government cannot simply ship the minor
across the country and place him in a secure detention facility for an indefinite period. Rather,
due process requires the government to give the minor a prompt hearing before an immigration
judge or other neutral decisionmaker, where the government must set forth the basis for its
decision to rearrest the minor, and where the minor and his sponsor may seek to rebut the
As a threshold matter, it is clear, notwithstanding the government's argument to the
contrary, that minors like A.H. have procedural due process rights rooted in the Constitution.
The arrests and detentions at issue raise questions regarding the extent to which a person is
entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard before being removed from the custody of a
sponsor in the United States – often a parent or family member – and sent across the country to a
juvenile detention facility. The Due Process Clause imposes limits on what the government can
do under these circumstances. See Hernandez v. Sessions, 872 F.3d 976, 981 (9th Cir. 2017)
("[T]he government's discretion to incarcerate non-citizens is always constrained by the
requirements of due process."); id. at 993-94 (analyzing constitutional procedural due process
requirements in the context of a class of noncitizens detained pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1226(a));
F.L.B. v. Lynch, 180 F. Supp. 3d 811, 817-21 (W.D. Wash. 2016) (concluding that "nonadmitted" juvenile noncitizens "[c]learly" had Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights);
cf. Yamataya v. Fisher, 189 U.S. 86, 100-01 (1903); United States v. Raya-Vaca, 771 F.3d 1195,
1202-03 (9th Cir. 2014) ("The Supreme Court has categorically declared that once an individual
has entered the United States, he is entitled to the protection of the Due Process Clause," even if
that person "has run some fifty yards into the United States.").
The government's citation to Angov v. Lynch, 788 F.3d 893 (9th Cir. 2015), is of limited
relevance. Angov addressed a question regarding the evidence an immigration judge can
consider in adjudicating an asylum petition. Id. at 896-97. Angov presented himself at a port of
entry and sought asylum, then asserted that the Due Process Clause imposed limits on how the
government could conduct that asylum hearing. Id. at 898. The Ninth Circuit concluded that
Angov had no constitutional right to procedural due process in the asylum proceeding. Id. Here,
unlike in Angov, the rights at issue do not concern the procedures by which the validity of an
application for admission will be assessed; they concern the arrest and detention of minors living
under the supervision of sponsors in the United States, pursuant to a prior decision by the federal
The government next contends that, even assuming minors like A.H. have constitutional
procedural due process rights, its existing procedures adequately protect their rights. But the
government understates the nature of the liberty interest possessed by these minors, as well as the
degree to which existing procedures protect against the erroneous deprivation of that liberty
To determine what due process requires, courts consider: (1) "the private interest that
will be affected by the official action;" (2) "the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest
through the procedures used, and the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural
safeguards;" and (3) "the Government's interest, including the function involved and the fiscal
and administrative burdens that the additional or substitute procedural requirement would entail."
Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 335 (1976).
With respect to the private interest at stake, "[f]reedom from imprisonment—from
government custody, detention, or other forms of physical restraint—lies at the heart of the
liberty" the Due Process Clause protects. Hernandez, 872 F.3d at 990 (quoting Zadvydas v.
Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 690 (2001)); White Decl., Dkt. No. 61-16 (depicting the secure detention
facility in Yolo County); compare Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292, 302 (1993) (addressing the
interest of a child where no "shackles, chains, or barred cells" are at stake). "In the context of
immigration detention, it is well-settled that 'due process requires adequate procedural
protections to ensure that the government's asserted justification for physical confinement
outweighs the individual's constitutionally protected interest in avoiding physical restraint.'"
Hernandez, 872 F.3d at 990 (quoting Singh v. Holder, 638 F.3d 1196, 1203 (9th Cir. 2011)).
Although A.H. and the other similarly situated minors are not adults, and thus are always in
some form of custody, they retain a strong interest in being free from unnecessary government
interference with their liberty. See Schall v. Martin, 467 U.S. 253, 265 (1984); cf. 8 U.S.C. §
1232(c)(2)(A) (requiring placement in the "least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of
Moreover, the government seems to assume that minors like A.H. have no greater interest
in freedom from detention than any noncitizen caught crossing the border. This ignores the
context in which these detentions arose. The federal government has already made a
determination that minors like A.H. should not be detained, and has therefore made a decision to
place them with a parent or other sponsor in the community. There is, as discussed previously, a
statute that requires the federal government to protect unaccompanied minors in this way, rather
than simply processing them as other immigrants caught crossing the border would be processed.
And by placing people like A.H. with their parents, as opposed to other suitable sponsors, the
federal government triggers the long-recognized interest of a parent in "the companionship, care,
custody and management of his or her children." Lassiter v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 452 U.S. 18, 27
(1981); see also D.B. v. Cardall, 826 F.3d 721, 740 (4th Cir. 2016) (recognizing this right along
with the reciprocal right held by children "to be raised and nurtured by their parents" (citing
Berman v. Young, 291 F.3d 976, 983 (7th Cir. 2002))). Therefore, the liberty deprivation in this
case is not the same as when someone is caught coming across the border and detained in the
nearest facility. The minors in this case have been taken away from their families, their schools,
and their communities, often to be shipped across the country to a high-security institution and
held for an indefinite period.
Given the nature of the liberty deprivation involved, a minor previously placed with a
sponsor by ORR cannot be rearrested solely on the ground that he is subject to removal
proceedings. That the minor was subject to removal proceedings formed the basis of his first
arrest; after DHS transferred the minor to ORR custody, as the TVPRA requires DHS to do on
every occasion in which an unaccompanied minor is arrested, ORR determined that the
appropriate place for the minor was not in federal custody. If DHS could, the day after a minor
was released to a parent or other sponsor, arrest the minor on the same basis and restart the
process, the TVPRA's instruction to place the minor in the least restrictive appropriate setting
would mean little. See United States v. Holmes, 452 F.2d 249, 261 (7th Cir. 1971); United States
v. Kordosky, No. 88-CR-52-C, 1988 WL 238041, at *7 n.14 (W.D. Wis. Sept. 12, 1988)
("Absent some compelling justification, the repeated seizure of a person on the same probable
cause cannot, by any standard, be regarded as reasonable under the Fourth Amendment.").
This is not to say that DHS may never rearrest, using a removability warrant, a minor
previously released by ORR to a sponsor. But to be lawful, the arrest must be based on evidence
that the circumstances relevant to that original release decision have changed. In other words,
DHS must have probable cause to believe that, notwithstanding ORR's prior determination, the
minor is now a danger to himself or the community, or a flight risk. See 8 U.S.C. §
A similar rule governs DHS conduct in a closely analogous context, namely, when DHS
arrests noncitizens previously released on bond or parole pending a removal decision. This
includes, by the way, DHS rearrests of minors who are classified as "accompanied" rather than
"unaccompanied."14 As with ORR's decision to release proposed class members to their
sponsors, prior release of an accompanied minor on bond or parole means that a federal agency
has already made a determination that he is not dangerous or a flight risk. See Matter of Guerra,
Because the parties agree that A.H. and the minors in the proposed class are properly classified
as "unaccompanied alien children" notwithstanding their prior release to a sponsor, and because
the accuracy of this classification does not matter for purposes of determining the minors'
procedural due process rights, there is no need to decide in this ruling whether the parties are
correct. Cf. D.B., 826 F.3d at 744 (Floyd, J., dissenting).
24 I. & N. Dec. 37, 38 (B.I.A. 2006). By statute, DHS "at any time may revoke a bond or
parole" issued pending a removal decision and then "rearrest the alien under the original
warrant." 8 U.S.C. § 1226(b). But, notwithstanding the breadth of this statutory language, the
Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") has recognized an important implicit limitation on DHS's
authority. The BIA has held that "where a previous bond determination has been made by an
immigration judge, no change should be made by a District Director absent a change of
circumstance." Matter of Sugay, 17 I. & N. Dec. 637, 640 (B.I.A. 1981). According to
government counsel, DHS has incorporated this holding into its practice, requiring a showing of
changed circumstances both where the prior bond determination was made by an immigration
judge and where the previous release decision was made by a DHS officer. "Thus," says the
government, "DHS generally only re-arrests an alien pursuant to § 1226(b) after a material
change in circumstances." Defs.' Second Supp. Br. at 1, Dkt. No. 90.
And when an accompanied minor (or other noncitizen) is rearrested after having been
released on bond, he is entitled to a prompt hearing to ensure that changed circumstances indeed
justify the rearrest. See Tr. of Oct. 27, 2017 Hearing at 148-49, 157-58. As counsel for the
government stated during the November 9, 2017 oral argument, this "bond redetermination
hearing" typically takes place before an immigration judge within seven to fourteen days. And at
the hearing, DHS must make a showing of the changed circumstances that justify rearrest, and
the rearrested noncitizen has the opportunity to rebut DHS's basis for his rearrest and detention.
If any noncitizen released on bond is entitled to this process, surely an unaccompanied
minor placed with a sponsor is entitled to at least the same level of protection. ORR previously
determined that the minor should be released to a suitable sponsor. That decision reflects its
determination that the minor is neither dangerous nor a flight risk. See 8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2)(A).
And because the minor cannot reasonably be rearrested absent a material change in
circumstances, due process likewise requires that the minor receive a prompt hearing in which
the government must show that these changed circumstances exist. At that hearing, the minor
must have the opportunity to rebut the government's showing, and, if he does so successfully, the
neutral decision maker must have the ability to order a return to the status quo.
Although the government is in the best position to determine precisely how such
proceedings are conducted, certain minimal protections are required to ensure that a minor is not
erroneously taken away from his family, transported across the country to a high-security
facility, and processed no differently from an unaccompanied minor first entering the country.
For example, the sponsor, as well as the minor, must receive notice of the basis for the rearrest
and an opportunity to be heard. The hearing must, consistent with existing practice for other
immigrants rearrested on grounds of changed circumstances, take place within seven days of
arrest, absent extraordinary circumstances. The hearing must take place in the jurisdiction where
the minor has been arrested or where the minor lives, to provide a meaningful opportunity for the
minor, his sponsor, and any existing counsel to rebut the factual basis for the minor's rearrest and
detention. This requirement will allow the parties to call necessary witnesses, and the hearing
may even occur before the same immigration judge already presiding over any removal
proceedings in which the minor is involved.
The government has raised concerns about which federal agency could keep custody of
the minor from the time DHS arrests him until the hearing takes place. But the government can
address these concerns consistent with its constitutional, statutory, and contractual
responsibilities. On the one hand, the government notes that the TVPRA requires DHS to
transfer custody of an unaccompanied minor to ORR within 72 hours, except in exceptional
circumstances. 8 U.S.C. § 1232(b)(3). But this provision would not prevent DHS from retaining
custody of minors like A.H. in a facility appropriate for minors for up to seven days to give them
a hearing before shipping them across the country to a secure ORR facility – the rearrest of a
previously released minor, and the need for a prompt hearing on the propriety of that rearrest, is
an "exceptional circumstance" that would allow DHS to hold the minor for longer than 72 hours.
On the other hand, the government expresses concern that if the minor is indeed transferred to
ORR custody pending the hearing, then any ruling by an immigration judge repudiating the
decision to rearrest the minor could not automatically result in the minor's release. According to
the government, the TVPRA requires ORR to conduct a reassessment of the sponsor's fitness to
care for the child once the child is returned to ORR custody. But it's not at all clear why this is
so – if an immigration judge determines that no changed circumstances justified the rearrest, this
means the immigration judge has restored the status quo. The status quo is the decision ORR
made previously, which is that the minor should be placed with the sponsor, whom ORR already
The government contends that the process set forth above is not necessary, because
current ORR procedures adequately protect against the risk of erroneous deprivation of liberty
for these minors. At least on the current record, existing ORR procedures appear to be
inadequate. A prompt hearing after rearrest before an immigration judge, like those already
given to noncitizens rearrested after having been released on bond, is far better suited to protect
the liberty of minors placed with sponsors who are rearrested by federal agents on the basis of
alleged gang affiliation.
Although current ORR procedures – the right to challenge a finding of dangerousness in a
Flores bond hearing, the right to challenge a placement under the Administrative Procedure Act,
and regular review by ORR to determine the appropriate security level – may be adequate for an
unaccompanied minor first arriving in the country, they appear inadequate to protect against the
risk of minors being erroneously taken away from their sponsors by federal agents through a
program like Operation Matador. It's not clear, for instance, that the sponsor with an interest in
the minor's release could participate in any of the government's existing processes, or that the
result of a successful challenge to the basis for the minor's rearrest and detention would be an
To the extent ORR has legitimate concerns about the sponsor's suitability, its existing
procedures, including coordination with state welfare agencies, would presumably be sufficient
to address those concerns. See Tr. of Oct. 27, 2017 Hearing at 104-08. And, to the extent that
the logistical difficulties associated with housing minors for the period between their rearrests
and hearings prove daunting, the government could instead have a hearing before arresting them
in the first place. See Zinermon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113, 132 (1990) (noting the preference for a
immediate return to the sponsor already deemed suitable.
In the absence of a prompt adversarial hearing of the type other rearrested noncitizens
receive, there is a serious risk that minors who were appropriately placed with sponsors, in
accordance with the TVPRA and the Flores settlement agreement, will – after rearrest on the
basis of insufficiently substantial allegations of gang affiliation – erroneously be placed into
ORR custody, and without an opportunity obtain prompt relief. As the Ninth Circuit has
recognized, "[d]etermining whether an individual is an active gang member presents a
considerable risk of error. The informal structure of gangs, the often fleeting nature of gang
membership, and the lack of objective criteria in making the assessment all heighten the need for
careful factfinding." Vasquez v. Rackauckas, 734 F.3d 1025, 1046 (9th Cir. 2013). As the
evidence regarding A.H., F.E., and J.G. shows, DHS sometimes makes an inference of gang
membership from conduct, clothing, or associations that are far from unequivocal evidence of
that conclusion. For instance, F.E. was classified as a gang member because he wrote "503," the
country code for El Salvador, in his school notebook, and because he had been seen associating
with known gang members at school and in the community. Decl. of Joe Pisciotta (F.E.) at 2-5,
Dkt. No. 67-3. As a direct result of DHS's inference, F.E. was arrested and taken to a secure
facility in another state. Although he has since been stepped down, five months later he remains
in an ORR facility and not in his mother's care. Moreover, Defendant Cardall (the local official
in charge of the facility in Yolo County) has asserted that evidence regarding allegedly gangaffiliated minors sent to that facility was often insufficient, and that the Yolo County Probation
Department concluded it did not have just cause to detain most of these minors. Corkery Decl.
Ex. C at 3; Corkery Decl., Ex. D.
The record does not show that the current procedure permits the necessary adversarial
factfinding process to occur close enough in time to the minor's arrest, thus making it
significantly more likely that the minor will be sent across the country to a secure facility without
sufficient evidence of dangerousness. In that event, the secure placement would not be
reasonably related to a legitimate government purpose. See Hernandez, 872 F.3d at 990 (citing
Zadvydas, 533 U.S. at 690). And it would fly in the face of the requirements of the TVPRA and
Flores decree that the child be in the least restrictive setting that is in his best interest. 8 U.S.C. §
1232(c)(2)(A); Fed. Defs.' Mot. To Dismiss, Ex. A (Flores Consent Decree) ¶ 11, Dkt. No. 54-2.
Nor will these procedural protections impose any significant burden on the federal
government. In fact, the process required by this ruling, which is similar to the process provided
to noncitizens rearrested after release on bond, seems less cumbersome than attempting to
subject these minors to a process that was designed for a different situation (namely, the situation
where a minor is first picked up by the federal government after coming across the border and
before a suitable caretaker has been identified). To the extent the procedural protections required
by this ruling impose some additional burden, this burden is reasonable in light of the
government's asserted interests in public safety and welfare, including the welfare of the minor.
First, this safeguard will enhance, rather than hinder, the government's capacity to act in the
child's best interest by ensuring that the child is placed in the least restrictive setting appropriate
to his needs and the needs of the community. Second, adopting an additional procedural
safeguard that will reduce the risk that a child is erroneously removed from a sponsor's custody
and placed into a taxpayer-funded juvenile detention facility will in no way negatively impact the
government's interest in public safety. If the government adduces sufficient credible evidence of
gang-related conduct during the hearing, the child will be placed into appropriate ORR custody.
It's also worth recalling that this ruling applies only to situations where the government
arrests a noncitizen minor without probable cause to believe he committed a crime. If there is
probable cause to believe the minor actually committed a crime, local law enforcement may
arrest him and charge him with the crime. Furthermore, federal immigration agents may arrest
noncitizens for committing federal felonies. See 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a); Tr. of Oct. 27, 2017
Hearing at 21-22. But if federal agents choose to rearrest a minor based on something short of
that – such as allegations of gang involvement or other changed circumstances that would
warrant detention notwithstanding ORR's prior determination that the minor should be placed
with a sponsor – any cost of providing a prompt hearing before an immigration judge is far
outweighed by the benefit of protecting against erroneous deprivation of liberty.
A.H. has shown a likely deprivation of his constitutional rights. That is generally
sufficient to demonstrate irreparable injury. See Hernandez, 872 F.3d at 994-95 (citing
Melendres v. Arpaio, 695 F.3d 990, 1002 (9th Cir. 2012)). A.H. and the putative class members'
procedural due process rights were violated when they were shipped across the country to a
secure facility on the basis of gang allegations without adequate notice and an opportunity to be
heard. And the evidence suggests they will remain in ORR custody on that basis indefinitely in
the absence of a preliminary injunction. See Corkery Decl., Ex. E (HHS) at 3729; e.g., Motion
To Supp. Record, Ex. 1, Dkt. No. 80-1 (denying F.E.'s mother's reunification petition primarily
on the basis of F.E.'s alleged gang affiliation).
In addition to the irreparable harm of the constitutional violation itself, A.H. has
submitted evidence suggesting that the magnitude of the harm will increase as time goes on.
According to the declaration of child psychiatrist Dr. Fortuna submitted by A.H. in support of his
motion, the longer children remain in confinement, the more likely they are to experience lasting
negative mental health repercussions. See Decl. of Dr. Fortuna at 9-10, Dkt. No. 61-8. Further,
if the putative class members are still in detention when they turn eighteen, they will be
transferred to ICE custody and lose the protections afforded to juveniles. Corkery Decl. Ex. E
(HHS) at 3729. Thus, the required showing of irreparable harm has been more than satisfied
When the government is a party, the balance of the equities and public interest analysis
generally merge. Drakes Bay Oyster Co. v. Jewell, 747 F.3d 1073, 1092 (9th Cir. 2014). On the
one hand is the public interest in ensuring the protection of constitutional rights, together with
the individual interests of the proposed class members in being free from unnecessary detention.
See Hernandez, 872 F.3d at 994-95. Also on the plaintiffs' side of the balance are the interests of
the sponsors in the care and custody of their children. See id.
The government contends that the public's interest in enforcement of the immigration
laws weighs against an injunction here. But the added procedural protections required by this
preliminary injunction will protect the interests embodied in immigration statutes directed
toward minors. A prompt adversarial hearing after arrest will ensure that only those minors
actually eligible for secure and staff-secure detention are held in such custody. It will also
support the goal of the TVPRA and the Flores decree that minors be placed with a sponsor
whenever it is in their best interest. As already discussed, any administrative burden this
injunction places on the government is greatly minimized by the fact that the government already
has a process in place for adjudicating allegations of changed circumstances for a different group
of noncitizens who have previously been released – a process it simply hasn't been using for this
particular class of rearrested minors. And the burden is justified in light of the hardships endured
by minors taken from their sponsors and placed in ORR custody. See id..
A.H. has thus shown that he is highly likely to succeed on the merits of his procedural
due process claim, that he (and, as discussed below, others like him) will suffer irreparable harm
in the absence of an injunction requiring a prompt hearing to test the basis of the government's
gang allegations, and that the equities and the public interest weigh strongly in favor of issuing
the injunction he requests. Even assuming that implementation of the hearing process described
above constitutes a "mandatory" rather than a "prohibitory" injunction, A.H. is entitled to the
relief he seeks. See id. at 998-99. The detention of minors without due process results in
"extreme or very serious damage" to this vulnerable population that is not "capable of
compensation in damages." Id. at 999 (quoting Marlyn Nutraceuticals, Inc. v. Mucos Pharma
GmbH & Co., 571 F.3d 873, 879 (9th Cir. 2009)). And, as discussed above, with respect to
A.H.'s procedural due process claim "the merits of the case are not doubtful." Id. (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).16
In addition to meeting the first prong of the preliminary injunction analysis, A.H.'s likelihood
of success on his procedural due process claim requires the Court to deny the federal defendants'
motion to dismiss as to that claim.
As alluded to throughout this ruling, A.H. moved the Court to provisionally certify a
class of similarly situated minors in conjunction with his motion for a preliminary injunction.
Whether class treatment of A.H.'s claims is appropriate is determined by the requirements of
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 564 U.S. 338, 345 (2011).
Rule 23 sets out the four basic requirements for class certification: (1) numerosity; (2)
commonality; (3) typicality; and (4) adequacy of representation. See Fed R. Civ. P. 23(a).
Because A.H. seeks to provisionally certify the class for purposes of obtaining declaratory and
injunctive relief, he must also demonstrate that "the party opposing the class has acted or refused
to act on grounds that apply generally to the class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding
declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a whole." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2).
For the reasons that follow, the Court will provisionally certify, for the limited purpose of
issuing a preliminary injunction, a class of noncitizen minors meeting the following criteria: (1)
the noncitizen came to the country as an unaccompanied minor; (2) the noncitizen was
previously detained in ORR custody and then released by ORR to a sponsor; (3) the noncitizen
has been or will be rearrested by DHS on the basis of a removability warrant on or after April 1,
2017 on allegations of gang affiliation.17
The plaintiffs initially requested certification of a similar class but limited to those minors
"who have been detained or would, if arrested, be considered for detention in" a secure or staffsecure facility under the oversight of the San Francisco Federal Field Specialist. Pls.' Consol. Br.
at 43. They then argued that "any Sponsored U[naccompanied] C[hild] who is arrested by ICE
and referred to ORR with allegations of gang affiliation" would fall within the proposed class,
because all minors with allegations of gang affiliation are referred to a secure facility under
current policy, and therefore are considered for placement in Northern California. Pls.' Reply Br.
at 25, Dkt. No. 73. In lieu of the plaintiffs' unwieldy definition, the Court concludes that a class
definition clearly applicable to all noncitizen minors with the characteristics above is both
advisable for purposes of administering the preliminary injunction and warranted on the facts of
this case so far – facts which show that the defendants have adopted a policy that applies to
sponsored noncitizen minors nationwide. See Easyriders Freedom F.I.G.H.T. v. Hannigan, 92
F.3d 1486, 1501-02 (9th Cir. 1996) (noting that, even without class certification, injunctive relief
may be extended beyond the named plaintiffs "if such breadth is necessary to give prevailing
parties the relief to which they are entitled" (citation omitted)).
To succeed in his motion for class certification, A.H. must show that "the class is so
numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(1). The
government contends that A.H. has failed to identify a sufficiently large number of existing class
members and has not shown that joinder of all the class members would be impracticable.
The plaintiffs' showing is sufficient to meet the numerosity requirement for purposes of
provisional class certification. The evidence suggests that at least 15 sponsored minors aside
from A.H. already have been detained on the basis of alleged gang affiliation. Decl. of Trevor
Kempner at 1, Dkt. No. 73-1; id., Ex. A (HHS) at 2572-802, Dkt. No. 82-2. Although this is not
itself an especially large number of undocumented minors, there is evidence that additional class
members will be added. See Bruce v. Christian, 113 F.R.D. 554, 557 (S.D.N.Y. 1986)
(concluding that, although the plaintiff had identified only 16 class members, it was clear that the
conduct at issue affected or would affect additional individuals, and further noting that the "fluid
composition of the public housing population" supported class certification). In particular, a
memorandum from ORR to the Domestic Policy Council notes that ORR currently has 58 beds
available in secure facilities nationwide but that, "[d]ue to increased numbers of domestic
apprehensions, particularly from DHS enforcement operations targeting gang members, as well
as ORR's new policies regarding initial designation to secure beds of all [unaccompanied alien
children] with past or present gang affiliation, additional secure beds are required." Corkery
Decl., Ex. E (HHS) at 3731. Indeed, news reports suggest that DHS has recently arrested dozens
more individuals who arrived in the United States as unaccompanied minors on allegations of
gang affiliation, as part of "Operation Raging Bull."18 Where a plaintiff seeks "only injunctive
Makini Brice, More Than 200 Arrested in U.S. Crackdown on MS-13 Gang, Reuters (Nov. 16,
2017), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-crime-gang/more-than-200-arrested-in-u-scrackdown-on-ms-13-gang-idUSKBN1DG32Z [https://perma.cc/7QCG-68DC]; Operation
Raging Bull, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, https://www.ice.gov/features/raging-bull
and declaratory relief, the numerosity requirement is relaxed and plaintiffs may rely on
reasonable inferences arising from plaintiffs' other evidence that the number of unknown and
future members is sufficient to make joinder impracticable." Civil Rights Educ. & Enf't Ctr. v.
Hosp. Props. Tr., 317 F.R.D. 91, 100 (N.D. Cal. 2016), aff'd, 867 F.3d 1093 (9th Cir. 2017)
(internal quotation marks, alterations, and citation omitted). In light of the tens of thousands of
undocumented minors released to sponsors and currently living in the United States and ORR's
anticipated expansion of the number of children held in secure facilities on the basis of gang
affiliation, the plaintiff class is sufficiently numerous. See Decl. of Stephen B. Kang at 1, Dkt.
Furthermore, given the characteristics of the members of the proposed class, joinder of all
the class members would be impracticable. See McCluskey v. Trustees of Red Dot Corp. Emp.
Stock Ownership Plan & Tr., 268 F.R.D. 670, 674 (W.D. Wash. 2010). The class consists of a
changing population of noncitizen minors in government custody, some of whom have limited
English proficiency. See, e.g., Decl. of A.H. (June 22, 2017) at 3; Decl. of J.G. at 3. The record
in this case demonstrates that they are frequently held in detention far from the location in which
they were arrested, and where they would presumably have improved access to the assistance of
their sponsors and any existing counsel. Moreover, the class members are moved to different
detention facilities with some frequency, which creates additional logistical difficulties. See,
e.g., Decl. of Linda Nanos at 1, Dkt. No. 61-19. And, although unnecessary detention for the
period of time prior to the minors' eighteenth birthdays is sufficient to constitute a serious
deprivation of their constitutional rights, it is not reliably enough time to develop an individual
A.H. next must demonstrate that "there are questions of law or fact common to the class."
Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(2). To satisfy this requirement, A.H. must show that proceeding as a class
will not only raise common questions but also will "generate common answers apt to drive the
resolution of the litigation." Wal-Mart, 564 U.S. at 350 (citation omitted). The defendants seize
upon likely differences in each class member's circumstances – regarding, for instance, the
nature and quantity of the evidence of gang affiliation adduced by DHS – to argue that
commonality is lacking here.
The procedural due process claim for which A.H. seeks class-wide preliminary injunctive
relief is amenable to common answers. See id. A.H. has shown "a common policy or practice"
of rearresting sponsored minors using a removability warrant, on the basis of suspected gang
affiliation, and then transferring the minors to ORR custody. See Civil Rights Educ. & Enf't Ctr.
v. Hosp. Props. Tr., 867 F.3d 1093, 1105 (9th Cir. 2017); Corkery Decl., Ex. E (HHS) at 3407,
3549, 3729-31. A.H. contends that all minors previously released to a sponsor are entitled to a
prompt hearing to determine whether there is any factual basis supporting DHS's arrest and
ORR's decision to detain the minor in secure custody. If A.H. is correct, all the class members'
rights were violated, regardless of whether, after the hearing is conducted, sufficient evidence
supported the arrest and detention.
The Court does not, in provisionally certifying the class, purport to resolve whether
every class member should be released from ORR custody; it seeks to determine whether DHS
and ORR policies violate class members' rights in a systematic way. This basic question is
common to all class members, and the answer is the same for each. See Abdullah v. U.S. Sec.
Assocs., Inc., 731 F.3d 952, 957 (9th Cir. 2013) (observing that commonality "does not . . . mean
that every question of law or fact must be common to the class; all that Rule 23(a)(2) requires is
a single significant question of law or fact" (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)); see
also Parsons v. Ryan, 754 F.3d 657, 675 (9th Cir. 2014) ("Where the circumstances of each
particular class member vary but retain a common core of factual or legal issues with the rest of
the class, commonality exists." (alteration and citation omitted)).
The typicality requirement is satisfied where the named plaintiff's claims "are typical of
the claims or defenses of the class." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(3). The government does not
specifically dispute that A.H.'s claims are typical of the class, and for good reason.
A.H., like all of the proposed class members, was rearrested by ICE after having been
placed with a sponsor by ORR. And, like all of the class members, he was placed in a secure
facility by ORR on the basis of alleged gang affiliation. Although he has since been stepped
down to a staff-secure facility, he has experienced the same trajectory of release, rearrest, and
transfer back to ORR custody on the basis of gang affiliation that characterizes all the class
members. His claims are therefore "reasonably coextensive with those of absent class members,"
and, to the extent he has been harmed, he has experienced "the same or similar injury" as the
unnamed class members. Parsons, 754 F.3d at 685 (internal quotation marks and citations
To demonstrate that "representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests
of the class," the Court must determine (1) whether A.H. and his counsel "have any conflicts of
interest with other class members," and (2) whether A.H. and his counsel will "prosecute the
action vigorously on behalf of the class." Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(4); Ellis v. Costco Wholesale
Corp., 657 F.3d 970, 985 (9th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted).
The government does not dispute that A.H. and his counsel will adequately represent the
class members' interests. There is no reason to believe that A.H.'s interests, or those of his
counsel, will conflict with those of the unnamed and similarly situated minors who are in the
proposed class. A.H.'s declaration suggests he is aware of his role as a class representative and is
willing to serve in that role. Decl. of A.H. (Sept. 20, 2017) at 3. Therefore, having reviewed the
proof submitted by plaintiffs' counsel regarding their experience litigating complex civil actions
and cases involving issues similar to those raised in this case, the Court is satisfied that the
adequacy requirement is met. See Decl. of Julia Mass (Sept. 25, 2017), Dkt. No. 61-4; Decl. of
Martin S. Schenker, Dkt. No. 61-5; Decl. of Stephen B. Kang at 3-7.
A.H. has likewise demonstrated that the government "has acted or refused to act on
grounds that apply generally to the class," such that preliminary injunctive relief would be
appropriate as to the class as a whole. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2). For purposes of class
certification, the Court need not "examine the viability or bases of class members' claims for
declaratory and injunctive relief, but only to look at whether class members seek uniform relief
from a practice applicable to all of them." Rodriguez v. Hayes, 591 F.3d 1105, 1125 (9th Cir.
The evidence demonstrates that DHS and ORR have adopted policies that subject all
sponsored minors alleged to be gang affiliated to rearrest using a removability warrant, transfer
to secure custody, and prohibition of their release to the sponsors previously charged with their
care. Corkery Decl., Ex. E (HHS) at 3729-31 (stating, among other things, that "[a]ll
[unaccompanied alien children] identified as having current or past gang affiliation are placed in
secure facilities," and that "[n]o current gang members are eligible for release to a sponsor from
the program"); see also id. at 3407, 3549; Corkery Decl., Ex. B at 53:6-54:4. This preliminary
injunction clarifies how the federal government must treat those people after they've been
rearrested. Because a single injunction can protect all class members' procedural due process
rights, the requirements of Rule 23(b)(2) are satisfied. See Wal-Mart, 564 U.S. at 360.
Because A.H. has met the requirements for provisional certification of an injunctive relief
class, and because he has shown that a preliminary injunction is warranted to remedy the
procedural due process violation he has alleged, the Court orders a prompt hearing not only for
A.H. but for all members of the class.19
In conclusion, for the reasons discussed above, the motion for a preliminary injunction on
behalf of a class of noncitizen minors is granted to remedy the government's likely violation of
the class members' procedural due process rights. The government is ordered to provide A.H.
and all other noncitizen minors previously released to a sponsor who were rearrested and are
Because this preliminary injunction neither enjoins nor restrains the proper operation of any
part of Part IV of the immigration statutes, 8 U.S.C. § 1252(f)(1) does not bar the relief ordered.
See Rodriguez, 591 F.3d at 1120-21.
currently in federal custody based on allegations of gang affiliation with a hearing before an
immigration judge by no later than November 29, 2017, to challenge the basis for those
allegations, in conformity with the requirements set out in Part III.A of this order. The minor's
sponsor must receive notice and be given an opportunity to participate in the hearing. At the
hearing, the government must present evidence that the minor is a danger to the community,
notwithstanding ORR's prior determination to the contrary. For all sponsored minors who will
be arrested on the basis of gang affiliation, the government must provide this hearing within
seven days of rearrest, in the jurisdiction where the minor was arrested or lives. A decision by
the immigration judge that the government has not made an adequate showing of changed
circumstances, or that the minor has successfully rebutted the showing, requires release into the
custody of the previous sponsor. With respect to the class members currently in federal custody,
the government must also provide prompt notice to class counsel about where the class member
is being held, the basis for the detention, and the details regarding the hearing the minor will
The defendants' motions to dismiss are granted as to the claims brought by F.E. and J.G.
individually. The non-federal defendants, Brent Cardall and Jose Esquivel, are dismissed from
the lawsuit. The federal defendants' motion to dismiss is denied with respect to the procedural
due process claim, and otherwise remains under submission. Also under submission are A.H.'s
motion for class-wide preliminary injunctive relief on his unlawful arrest claim, as well as his
request for his own release from custody.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: November 20, 2017
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?