Alabama v. United States, Case No.: 2:16-cv-00029-JEO

CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama
Writing for the CourtJOHN E. OTT, Chief United States Magistrate Judge
Citation198 F.Supp.3d 1263
Parties State of ALABAMA, et al., Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES of America, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date29 July 2016
Docket NumberCase No.: 2:16-cv-00029-JEO

198 F.Supp.3d 1263

State of ALABAMA, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES of America, et al., Defendants.

Case No.: 2:16-cv-00029-JEO

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division.

Signed July 29, 2016


198 F.Supp.3d 1265

David B. Byrne, Jr., Carrie E. McCollum, State of Alabama Office of the Governor, Montgomery, AL, Joshua K. Payne, Robert K. Spotswood, Spotswood Sansom & Sansbury LLC, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiffs.

Michelle R. Bennett, Stuart Justin Robinson, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN E. OTT, Chief United States Magistrate Judge

The State of Alabama and various Alabama state officials1 (collectively referred to as "Plaintiffs") bring claims against the United States of America and various federal departments, agencies, and officials2 (collectively referred to as "Defendants") for declaratory and injunctive relief based on Defendants' alleged failure to consult regularly with Plaintiffs regarding the placement of refugees in the State of Alabama. (Doc. 1 ("Complaint" or "Compl.")). This matter is now before the court on Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 7). The parties have fully briefed that motion (See Docs. 7, 19, 23, 27, 40). Upon consideration, the court finds the motion to dismiss is due to be granted.3

I.

Rule 12(b)(6), FED. R. CIV. P ., authorizes a motion to dismiss an action on the ground that the allegations in the complaint fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. On such a motion, the " ‘issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.’ "

198 F.Supp.3d 1266

Little v. City of North Miami , 805 F.2d 962, 965 (11th Cir.1986) (quoting Scheu e r v. Rhodes , 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974) ). In considering a motion to dismiss, the court assumes the factual allegations in the complaint are true and gives the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable factual inferences. Hazewood v. Foundation Financial Group, LLC , 551 F.3d 1223, 1224 (11th Cir.2008) (per curiam).

Rule 12(b)(6) is read in light of Rule 8(a)(2), FED. R. CIV. P ., which requires only "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," in order to " ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the...claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’ " See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957) ). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. (citations, brackets, and internal quotation marks omitted). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level...." Id. Thus, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,’ " i.e. , its "factual content...allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citations omitted). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 557, 127 S.Ct. 1955 ).

II.

This action arises from Plaintiffs' alleged concerns regarding the potential placement of Syrian refugees within the State of Alabama. (See Compl. ¶¶ 26-30). After President Obama announced that 10,000 of the up to 85,000 refugees admitted to the United States during fiscal year 2016 would be from Syria,4 and in response to terrorist attacks in Paris, France, Governor Robert Bentley issued Executive Order No. 14 on November 16, 2015, directing "all departments, budget units, agencies, offices, entities, and officers of the executive branch of the State of Alabama...to utilize all lawful means to prevent the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the State of Alabama until this order is rescinded...." (Compl. ¶¶ 28-29; Doc. 1-1 p. 5). See also Presidential Determination on Refugee Admissions for Fiscal Year 2016, 80 Fed. Reg. 62433 (Sept. 29, 2015). Governor Bentley sent the executive order to President Obama along with a letter outlining his concerns regarding the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. (Compl. ¶ 30; Doc. 1-1 pp. 2-3).

Following communications with the Obama Administration, Governor Bentley sent a letter to the White House Chief of Staff and the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of State on November 25, 2015, informing them "the State of Alabama has not received either

198 F.Supp.3d 1267

voluntary consultations or quarterly reports" from the Catholic Social Services of the Greater Mobile Area ("CSS"), the nonprofit voluntary agency serving as the refugee resettlement agency in Alabama.5 (Compl. ¶ 31; Doc. 1-1 p. 7). Governor Bentley expressed concern regarding the refugee vetting process and the lack of reporting by CSS, and he requested that the Administration direct CSS and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide the required reports and consultations "beginning immediately." (Doc. 1-1 pp. 7-8).

Governor Bentley wrote again to the White House Chief of Staff on December 2, 2015, to express his "growing frustration with the lack of answers [his] office is receiving regarding [the refugee resettlement program]." (Id. p. 10). In the letter, he also stated "Alabama has not received any mandated reports regarding refugees of any national origin" and reiterated his "great concerns with the refugee vetting process, particularly the lack of state involvement, oversight or knowledge." (Id. pp. 10–11).

Finally, on December 30, 2015, Governor Bentley wrote to the Director of Refugee Admissions for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration requesting that the U.S. Department of State "provide a tailored report for Alabama regarding refugee resettlement." (Id. p. 13). Specifically, he requested that the State Department provide "the total number of refugees resettled in the state broken down by nationality, age range and gender" and update the information provided on a monthly basis via a secure website. (Id. ).

Apparently unsatisfied with the federal government's response, Plaintiffs filed this action on January 7, 2016, asking this court for declaratory and injunctive relief relating to Defendants' alleged failure to fulfill their consultation obligations under the Refugee Act. (See Compl.). Specifically, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment "setting forth the parties' rights and obligations accordingly and an injunction directing Defendants to fulfill their statutory obligations" under the Refugee Act. (Id. ¶ 38). Plaintiffs also ask the court for an order compelling Defendants to comply with their statutory consultation obligations under the Refugee Act. (Id. ¶¶ 42 & 48).

III.

Plaintiffs assert three claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants under the Declaratory Judgment Act, the Refugee Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Mandamus and Venue Act. As discussed below, each of Plaintiffs' three claims fails to state a claim for which relief may be granted because (1) there is no private right of action to enforce the Refugee Act, (2) the consultation required is not an agency action under the Administrative Procedures Act, and (3) Plaintiffs do not have a clear right to relief and Defendants do not owe them a clear ministerial duty. Accordingly, Defendants' motion to dismiss is due to be granted. Because some understanding of the Refugee Act is helpful to understanding the issues raised by Defendants' motion, the court will first briefly discuss the statutory background of the Act before addressing Plaintiffs' claims and Defendants' motion to dismiss.

198 F.Supp.3d 1268

A. Statutory Background

"The authority to control immigration...is vested solely in the Federal government." Takahashi v. Fish and Game Comm'n , 334 U.S. 410, 416 (1948) (citation omitted). Pursuant to that power, Congress enacted the Refugee Act of 1980, which amended the Immigration and Nationality Act, to "provide a permanent and systematic procedure for the admission [ ] of refugees of special humanitarian concern to the United States, and to provide comprehensive and uniform provisions for the effective resettlement and absorption of those refugees who are admitted." Refugee Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96-212 § 101(b). The Refugee Act establishes the Office of Refugee Resettlement ("ORR") within the Department of Health and Human Services and authorizes the Director of ORR "to make grants to, and...

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2 practice notes
  • HIAS, Inc. v. Trump, Civil No. PJM 19-3346
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • 15 janvier 2020
    ...admitted". Refugee Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96-212 § 101 (b), 94 Stat. 102 (emphasis supplied); see also Alabama v. United States , 198 F. Supp. 3d 1263, 1268 (N.D. Ala. 2016) ; Texas Health and Human Servs, Comm'n v. United States , 193 F. Supp. 3d 733, 739 (N.D. Tex. 2016). The state-by-s......
  • Educ. Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., Civil Action Number 2:18-cv-01698-AKK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • 5 novembre 2018
    ...Judgment Act in an attempt to enforce a statute that does not provide a private right of action. See Alabama v. United States, 198 F. Supp. 3d 1263, 1268-73 (N.D. Ala. 2016) (dismissing the state's claim for relief under the Declaratory Judgement Act for alleged violations of the Refugee Ac......
2 cases
  • HIAS, Inc. v. Trump, Civil No. PJM 19-3346
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Maryland
    • 15 janvier 2020
    ...admitted". Refugee Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96-212 § 101 (b), 94 Stat. 102 (emphasis supplied); see also Alabama v. United States , 198 F. Supp. 3d 1263, 1268 (N.D. Ala. 2016) ; Texas Health and Human Servs, Comm'n v. United States , 193 F. Supp. 3d 733, 739 (N.D. Tex. 2016). The state-by-s......
  • Educ. Corp. v. U.S. Dep't of Educ., Civil Action Number 2:18-cv-01698-AKK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • 5 novembre 2018
    ...Judgment Act in an attempt to enforce a statute that does not provide a private right of action. See Alabama v. United States, 198 F. Supp. 3d 1263, 1268-73 (N.D. Ala. 2016) (dismissing the state's claim for relief under the Declaratory Judgement Act for alleged violations of the Refugee Ac......

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