Haitian Refugee Center v. Gracey, 85-5258

Citation809 F.2d 794,257 U.S.App.D.C. 367
Decision Date09 January 1987
Docket NumberNo. 85-5258,85-5258
Parties, 55 USLW 2385 HAITIAN REFUGEE CENTER, et al., Appellants v. James S. GRACEY, Admiral/Commandant, United States Coast Guard, et al.
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 84-02270).

Marvin E. Frankel, New York City, with whom Charles Gordon, Washington, D.C., was on the brief, for appellants.

Lauri Steven Filppu, Deputy Director, Dept. of Justice, with whom Richard K. Willard, Acting Asst. Atty. Gen., and David V. Bernal, Atty., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., were on the brief, for appellees.

William A. Bradford, Jr. and David W. Burgett, Washington, D.C., were on the brief for amicus curiae, Amnesty Intern. U.S.A., urging reversal.

Roberts B. Owen and Carlos M. Vazquez, Washington, D.C., were on the brief for amicus curiae, Intern. Human Rights Law Group, urging reversal.

Ralph G. Steinhardt, Washington, D.C., was on the brief for amicus curiae, United Nations High Com'r for Refugees, urging reversal.

Steven R. Shapiro was on the brief for amici curiae, American Civil Liberties Union, et al., urging reversal.

Before EDWARDS, BORK and BUCKLEY, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge BORK.

Concurring opinion filed by Circuit Judge BUCKLEY.

Opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part filed by Circuit Judge HARRY T. EDWARDS.

BORK, Circuit Judge:

Appellants, the Haitian Refugee Center ("HRC" or "Center") and two of its members brought this action to challenge the United States' program of interdicting on the high seas vessels carrying undocumented aliens attempting to enter the United States. Such aliens are returned to the country from which they came. Appellants seek declaratory and injunctive relief. The district court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We affirm because we conclude that appellants lack standing to sue. Though the Center has alleged sufficient injury, neither the HRC nor its members have established the causation required by separation of powers principles for article III standing. In addition, we hold that the Supreme Court's prudential rules preclude appellants' attempts to assert the legal rights and interest of the interdicted Haitians. 1


On September 29, 1981, "having found that the entry of undocumented aliens, arriving at the borders of the United States from the high seas, is detrimental to the interests of the United States," the President proclaimed that: "The entry of undocumented aliens from the high seas is hereby suspended and shall be prevented by the interdiction of certain vessels carrying such aliens." Proclamation No. 4865, 46 Fed.Reg. 48,107 (1981), reprinted in 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1182 app. at 993 (1982).

On the same date, the President issued an executive order directing the Secretary of State to enter into "co-operative arrangements with appropriate foreign governments for the purpose of preventing illegal migration to the United States by sea." Exec. Order No. 12,324, 46 Fed.Reg. 48,109 (1981), reprinted in 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1182 app. at 992-93 (1982). On September 23, 1981, the United States and Haiti entered into such an arrangement. See Interdiction Agreement, Sept. 23, 1981, United States-Haiti, T.I.A.S. No. 10,241. Under the agreement, Haiti authorized United States authorities to board Haitian flag vessels on the high seas and make certain inquiries regarding the condition and destination of such vessels and the status of those on board. If a violation of United States law or an appropriate Haitian law is discovered, the vessel and the persons aboard may be returned to Haiti. The United States agreed to the presence of a representative of the Haitian Navy aboard any United States vessel engaged in the interdiction program. The agreement also provides that it is "understood that the United States, having regard for its international obligations pertaining to refugees, does not intend to return to Haiti any Haitian migrants the United States determines qualify for refugee status." Finally, the Government of Haiti agreed that all Haitians returned to the country who are not traffickers in illegal migration will not be subject to prosecution for illegal departure.

The Executive Order directed the Secretary of Transportation to order the Coast Guard to interdict "any defined vessel carrying [undocumented] aliens." The defined vessels include vessels from foreign nations with which the United States has arrangements authorizing it to board such vessels. The Secretary of Transportation was also ordered to direct the Coast Guard "[t]o return the vessel and its passengers to the country from which it came, when there is reason to believe that an offense is being committed against the United States immigration laws, or appropriate laws of a foreign country with which we have an arrangement to assist." Though the Coast Guard was to carry on the interdiction program only outside the territorial waters of the United States, the Executive Order provides that "no person who is a refugee will be returned without his consent" and that the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretaries of State and Transportation, shall take appropriate steps "to ensure the fair enforcement of our laws relating to immigration ... and the strict observance of our international obligations concerning those who genuinely flee persecution in their homeland."

To implement the arrangement with Haiti, INS officials were assigned to the Coast Guard vessels engaged in the interdiction program. The INS developed unpublished, informal guidelines setting forth the procedures to be followed during interdiction operations. See INS Role in and Guidelines for Interdiction at Sea, Joint Appendix ("J.A.") at 55-57. The guidelines provide that if it is deemed safe and practicable by the commanding Coast Guard officer, each person aboard the interdicted vessel shall be interviewed to determine his or her name, nationality, documentation and reasons for leaving Haiti. The INS official is directed to be "watchful for any indication (including bare claims)" that a passenger may qualify for refugee status. If the official finds such an indication, an additional individual interview is held. If the interviewee indicates that he has a bona fide claim to refugee status, then the individual must be taken to the United States to present his claim.

The interdiction program began in October, 1981. Since then, over 78 vessels carrying more than 1800 Haitians have been interdicted. The government states that it has interviewed all interdicted Haitians and none has presented a bona fide claim to refugee status. Accordingly, to date all interdictees have been returned to Haiti.


Appellants sought two forms of relief: (1) an injunction permanently enjoining the Coast Guard and the INS from continuing the interdiction program, and (2) a judgment declaring the interdiction program illegal. See Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief ("Complaint") at 20, J.A. at 23. The complaint contains four counts. Count I asserts that the interdiction program violates the rights of the interdicted Haitians under the Refugee Act of 1980 ("Refugee Act"), Pub.L. No. 96-212, 94 Stat. 102, and the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1253(h) (1982). Complaint at 13-15, J.A. at 16-18. Count II states that the actions of "interdicting, detaining, and forcibly returning" the interdictees to Haiti "were taken by the defendants in excess of their constitutional and statutory authority," and that these actions were taken "in violation of standards of due process defined by Congress in the Refugee Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act and therefore without due process of law guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment." Complaint at 15-16, J.A. at 18-19. Count III alleges that the interdiction program violates the United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees ("Protocol") and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("Declaration"). See Complaint at 16-18, J.A. at 19-21. Count IV asserts that the interdiction program violates the Extradition Treaty between the United States and Haiti, 34 Stat. 2858, and the extradition statute, 18 U.S.C. Sec. 3181 et seq. (1982). See Complaint at 18-19, J.A. at 21-22.

The government defendants moved to dismiss "on the grounds that [the district court] lack[ed] jurisdiction over the subject matter, that the case is not justiciable under the 'political question' doctrine, that plaintiffs lack standing, and that plaintiffs have failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." J.A. at 26. The court granted the motion on the last ground, specifically rejecting the contention that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. See Haitian Refugee Center v. Gracey, 600 F.Supp. 1396, 1401-03 (D.D.C.1985).

On the merits, the district court determined at the outset that the President possesses statutory and constitutional authority to conduct the interdiction program, citing 8 U.S.C. Secs. 1182(f), 1185(a)(1) (1982) and the President's inherent constitutional power over immigration. 600 F.Supp. at 1399-1400. The court then held that the Refugee Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act provide no grounds for relief because "those acts only establish procedures guaranteed to aliens within the United States." Id. at 1404. The court dismissed plaintiffs' due process claim, concluding that "the interdicted Haitians have no Fifth Amendment rights." Id. at 1405. Nor did the court find any grounds for relief in the Protocol or the Declaration since the former is not self-executing and the latter is merely a nonbinding resolution. Id. at 1405-06. Finally, the district court concluded that the extradition treaty and statute provide relief only to...

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