Haitian Refugee Center, Inc. v. Baker

Decision Date28 January 1992
Docket NumberNo. 91-6060,91-6060
Citation949 F.2d 1109
PartiesHAITIAN REFUGEE CENTER, INC., et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. James BAKER, III, Secretary of State, Robert Kramek, Rear Admiral, Kime, Admiral, Commandant, United States Coast Guard, Gene McNary, Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization Service, United States Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service, United States of America, Defendants-Appellants. . Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eleventh Circuit

John F. Daly, Michael Jay Singer, Edward T. Swaine, Kenneth W. Starr, Washington, D.C., for defendants-appellants.

Ira Kurzban, Kurzban, Kurzban & Weinger, Miami, Fla., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before TJOFLAT, Chief Judge, HATCHETT and COX, Circuit Judges.


On December 3, 1991, the district court issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting the defendants, James Baker, III, and others from forcefully repatriating Haitians in their custody. The defendants appeal. The appeal has been expedited and is now ripe for decision on the merits.

The district court's order granting the preliminary injunction was grounded on a finding that there was a substantial likelihood that the plaintiffs would prevail on the merits of two judicially enforceable claims: (1) "HRC's right of association and counsel, which arises from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution;" and (2) "the Haitian plaintiffs' right of nonrefoulment, which arises under Article 33 of the 1967 United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees."

Ordinarily, the grant of a preliminary injunction is reviewed for abuse of discretion; however, if the trial court misapplies the law we will review and correct the error without deference to that court's determination. Cable News Network, Inc. v. Video Monitoring Servs., Inc., 940 F.2d 1471, 1477 (11th Cir.1991).

In order to prevail on a motion for preliminary injunction, the movant has the burden of proving: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat of irreparable injury; (3) its own injury outweighs the injury to the nonmovant; and (4) the injunction would not disserve the public interest. Id. at 1478, Tally-Ho, Inc. v. Coast Community College Dist., 889 F.2d 1018, 1022 (11th Cir.1990).

Defendants argue that the Haitian plaintiffs in this case have no enforceable rights under Article 33 because Article 33 is not self-executing as to persons situated like the plaintiffs in this case. The individual Haitians who are plaintiffs in this case have not reached United States territory.

The language of the Protocol and the history of the United States' accession to it leads to the conclusion that Article 33 is not self-executing and thus provides no enforceable rights to the Haitian plaintiffs in this case. (A "self-executing" international agreement is one that directly accords enforceable rights to persons without the benefit of Congressional implementation.) See Haitian Refugee Center v. Gracey, 809 F.2d 794 (D.C.Cir.1987) (Edwards, J. concurring in part and dissenting in part); Bertrand v. Sava, 684 F.2d 204 (2nd Cir.1982); Pierre v. United States, 547 F.2d 1281 (5th Cir.1977), vacated on other grounds, 434 U.S. 962, 98 S.Ct. 498, 54 L.Ed.2d 447 (1977).

Next, the defendants argue that even if the plaintiffs had a First Amendment right of access to the interdicted Haitians, the relief granted by the injunction is unrelated to the right asserted by HRC. The district court's injunction order states as follows:

[D]efendants are hereby enjoined from forcefully repatriating the individual plaintiffs or class members in their custody either until the merits of the underlying action are resolved or until defendants implement and follow procedures, such as those contained in the INS Guidelines, adequate to ensure that Haitians with bona fide political asylum claims are not forced to return to Haiti in violation of Article 33 of the Protocol. To this end, within seven days defendants shall submit to the court a recital of the procedures to be followed.

The district court's order is not merely overly broad, see United States v. Gilbert, 920 F.2d 878 (11th Cir.1991), it fails to redress the right asserted by HRC. Here, HRC asserts a right of access to the interdicted Haitians. The injunctive relief granted by the district court does not require the defendants to allow HRC access to the Haitian interdictees, it enjoins the defendants from repatriating them. Because the relief granted does not address the right of access asserted by HRC, the First Amendment claim cannot support the injunction.

Judge Hatchett, in dissent, would uphold the issuance of the preliminary injunction on the basis of the APA claim. The district court refused to grant relief on this claim. The plaintiffs do not cross-appeal. We cannot properly uphold the injunction based on the APA claim under these circumstances. Furthermore, to do so would constitute a holding by this court, on appeal, that the plaintiffs are entitled to injunctive relief on the APA claim as a matter of law.

For the foregoing reasons, the preliminary injunction issued by the district court is hereby DISSOLVED and the case is REMANDED to the district court with instructions to dismiss, on the merits, the claims predicated on Article 33.

The mandate shall issue immediately and no petition for panel rehearing will be entertained. 1

HATCHETT, Circuit Judge, dissenting:

I respectfully dissent. The district court properly issued the preliminary injunction in this case. Additionally, I dissent from the majority's decision that although this court has jurisdiction over this case, the scope of our jurisdiction is not broad enough to afford review of the district court's refusal to grant the preliminary injunction on the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) claim.


It is important to put this case in proper context through consideration of factual matters borne out by the record.

1. Under existing law, any refugee may reach the shores of the United States and thereby acquire the right to enforce United States immigration laws in United States courts, except Haitian refugees. Only Haitian refugees are intercepted in international waters and repatriated to their country of origin. This activity is conducted under an agreement between the Reagan administration and the totalitarian Haitian government in place in 1981, the regime of Jean-Claude Duvalier.

2. The government asserts that prior to the district court's entry of the preliminary injunction, it fairly and adequately applied United States immigration laws to the refugees' claims of political asylum. The district court's preliminary injunction provides that the government refrain from repatriating Haitian refugees until the court has determined the merits of this case or until the government submits a plan outlining its screening procedures. 1 Consequently, the district court has ordered the government to do no more than the government maintains it was already doing. Thus, the order does not harm the government at all, and certainly imposes no "irreparable harm." The balance of harms in this case tips decidedly in favor of the Haitian refugees, who face injury or death if wrongfully repatriated.

3. A simple reading of the district court's preliminary injunction belies the government's argument that the district court has barred it from returning these refugees to Haiti. At most, the preliminary injunction delays the return of refugees not entitled to political asylum in the United States. Nothing in the preliminary injunction can lead one to conclude that these refugees must either be brought to the United States or carried to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be held indefinitely.

4. The government seeks to convince this court that its interdiction program was instituted as an effort to save the lives of Haitian refugees traveling in unseaworthy vessels. But the government's own brief shows that the program was instituted in 1981, long before the current immigration wave, for the express purpose of more efficiently enforcing United States immigration law. The primary purpose of the program was, and has continued to be, to keep Haitians out of the United States.

5. At the bottom of this case is the government's decision to intercept Haitian refugees on the high seas, in international waters, to prevent them from reaching United States territory. If these refugees reach United States territory, they will have the right to insist, in United States courts, that they be accorded proper, fair, and adequate screening procedures. 2 In addition, they will receive counseling from the Haitian Refugee Center (HRC) and volunteer lawyers who will ensure the proper application of United States immigration laws. The interdiction program is a clear effort by the government to circumvent this result.

The United Nations Protocol on Refugees, and the United States immigration laws which execute it, were motivated by the World War II refugee experience. Jewish refugees seeking to escape the horror of Nazi Germany sat on ships in New York Harbor, only to be rebuffed and returned to Nazi Germany gas chambers. Does anyone seriously contend that the United States's responsibility for the consequences of its inaction would have been any less if the United States had stopped the refugee ships before they reached our territorial waters? Having promised the international community of nations that it would not turn back refugees at the border, the government yet contends that it may go out into international waters and actively prevent Haitian refugees from reaching the border. Such a contention makes a sham of our international treaty obligations and domestic laws for the protection of refugees.

6. Through this lawsuit, these refugees are not requesting...

To continue reading

Request your trial
49 cases
  • Byrne v. Nezhat, No. 99-12623
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • August 14, 2001
    ...court erred as a matter of law in dismissing Manov's claims against Northside in Counts III and IV. See Haitian Refugee Ctr. v. Baker, 949 F.2d 1109, 1110 (11th Cir. 1991) ("[I]f the trial court misapplies the law we will review and correct the error without deference to that court's determ......
  • Cuban American Bar Ass'n, Inc. v. Christopher
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • January 18, 1995
    ...law we will review and correct the error without deference to that court's determination." Haitian Refugee Ctr., Inc. v. Baker, 949 F.2d 1109, 1110 (11th Cir.1991) (per curiam) [hereinafter "Baker "], cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 112 S.Ct. 1245, 117 L.Ed.2d 477 (1992). As discussed below, t......
  • Barapind v. Reno, Civ-F-98-5583 OWW.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • June 4, 1999
    ...Refugee Center, Inc. v. Christopher, 515 U.S. 1142, 115 S.Ct. 2578, 132 L.Ed.2d 828 (1995) (citing Haitian Refugee Ctr., Inc. v. Baker, 949 F.2d 1109, 1110 (11th Cir.) (per curiam), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1122, 112 S.Ct. 1245, 117 L.Ed.2d 477 (1992)); see also Ming v. Marks, 505 F.2d 1170, ......
  • Haitian Centers Council, Inc. v. McNary
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (2nd Circuit)
    • July 29, 1992
    ...estoppel issue of the Government's shift from the position it took when it successfully opposed certiorari in Haitian Refugee Center v. Baker, 949 F.2d 1109 (11th Cir.1991) ("HRC"), to the position it now takes with regard to interdiction. The Government persuaded the Supreme Court not to r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 books & journal articles
  • An Empirical Look at Preliminary Injunctions in Challenges Under Environmental Protection Laws
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter No. 47-5, May 2017
    • May 1, 2017
    ...this prong “balance of harms,” “balance of equities,” and “balance of hardships.” See , e.g. , Haitian Refugee Ctr., Inc. v. Baker, 949 F.2d 1109, 1111 (11th Cir. 1991) (using “balance of harms”); Glenwood Bridge, Inc. v. City of Minneapolis, 940 F.2d 367, 370 (8th Cir. 1991) (using “balanc......
  • Do I need to pin a target to my back? The definition of "particular social group" in U.S. asylum law.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 39 No. 1, November 2011
    • November 1, 2011
    ...not binding. See Abdelwahed, 22 F. App'x at 815 (asserting that the 1967 Protocol is not self-executing); Haitian Refugee Ctr. v. Baker, 949 F.2d 1109, 1110 (11th Cir. 1991) (holding that Article 33 of the 1967 Protocol is not self-executing); Bret Thiele, Persecution On Account Of Gender: ......
  • Specific Environmental Statutes
    • United States
    • Environmental crimes deskbook 2nd edition Part Three
    • June 20, 2014
    ...if it both requires no implementing legislation and provides a speciic private right of action. Haitian Refugee Center v. Baker, 949 F.2d 1109, 1110 (11th Cir. 1991). 200. Royal Caribbean , 11 F. Supp. 2d at 1368. 201. Id . at 1369. 202. Id. at 1366. RCCL also argued that speciic safeguards......
  • Environmental Law - W. Scott Laseter and Chintan K. Amin
    • United States
    • Mercer University School of Law Mercer Law Reviews No. 51-4, June 2000
    • Invalid date
    ...outweighs the injury to the nonmovant; and (4) the injunction would not disserve the public interest. Haitian Refugee Ctr, Inc. v. Baker, 949 F.2d 1109, 1110 (11th Cir. 1991) (per curiam) (emphasis added). 46. 183 F.3d 1269 (11th Cir. 1999). 47. 42 U.S.C. Sec. 9601-9675 (1994 & Supp. Ill 19......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT