J.L. v. Cissna, Case No. 18-cv-04914-NC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Writing for the CourtNATHANAEL M. COUSINS, United States Magistrate Judge
Citation341 F.Supp.3d 1048
Parties J.L., M.V.B., M.D.G.B., and J.B.A., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, v. Lee Francis CISSNA, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Robert Cowan, Director, National Benefits Center, United States Department of Homeland Security, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Defendants.
Decision Date24 October 2018
Docket NumberCase No. 18-cv-04914-NC

341 F.Supp.3d 1048

J.L., M.V.B., M.D.G.B., and J.B.A., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Lee Francis CISSNA, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Secretary, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Robert Cowan, Director, National Benefits Center, United States Department of Homeland Security, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Defendants.

Case No. 18-cv-04914-NC

United States District Court, N.D. California.

Signed October 24, 2018


341 F.Supp.3d 1053

Sirena Peleka Castillo, Adrianne Elizabeth Marshack, Allison Claire Nelson, Kathleen Elizabeth Ingra Wise, Matthew P. Kanny, Michael Gregory Nordon, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP, Judith Maura London, Mary Tanagho Ross, Sara Lynn Van Hofwegen, Public Counsel, Los Angeles, CA, Keith Lee Wurster, Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, Matthew Brent Golper, Manatt, Phelps and Phillips, LLP, Costa Mesa, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Ari Nazarov, Nicole Joann Thomas-Dorris, Kenneth John Ian, U.S. Dep't of Justice, Washington, DC, Michael Thomas Pyle, United States Attorney's Office, San Jose, CA, for Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

NATHANAEL M. COUSINS, United States Magistrate Judge

341 F.Supp.3d 1054

Plaintiffs are young immigrants who were abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents. They seek classification as Special Immigrant Juveniles ("SIJ") as a pathway to lawful permanent residency in the United States. They contend that defendants—the United States Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"), and individual officers in charge of those departments—have adopted a new policy that unlawfully denies them SIJ status by imposing requirements beyond the scope of the law. Plaintiffs now move for a preliminary injunction to enjoin that policy. See Dkt. No. 6. Because the Court finds that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, a likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, and the balance of equities and public interest weighs in their favor, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction enjoining Defendants from effecting their new policy.

I. Background

A. Federal Regulatory Framework and History

Each year, a small percentage of immigrant visas are allocated to immigrant juveniles with Special Immigrant Juvenile status. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1153. To be eligible for SIJ status, an immigrant must:

(i) [have] been declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States or whom such a court has legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an agency or department of a State, or an individual or entity appointed by a State or juvenile court located in the United States, and whose reunification with 1 or both of the immigrant's parents is not viable due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under State law;

(ii) for whom it has been determined in administrative or judicial proceedings that it would not be in the alien's best interest to be returned to the alien's or parent's previous country of nationality or country of last habitual residence; and

(iii) in whose case the Secretary of Homeland Security consents to the grant of special immigrant juvenile status ....

8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) ("SIJ statute"). If granted, SIJ status also provides a pathway to lawful permanent residency and, ultimately, citizenship. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1255, 1427. When an immigrant applies for SIJ status, USCIS must grant or deny SIJ status within 180 days. See 8 U.S.C. § 1232(d)(2). Because the dispute in this case centers around USCIS's current interpretation of the SIJ statute, a brief overview of the statutory history is useful.

341 F.Supp.3d 1055

Congress first recognized SIJ status as a form of immigration relief in 1990. Specifically, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990 conferred "special immigrant status" to immigrants "declared dependent on a juvenile court located in the United States and ... deemed eligible by that court for long-term foster care, and ... it would not be in the alien's best interest to be returned to the alien's or parent's previous country of nationality ...." Pub. L. No. 101-649 § 153, 104 Stat. 4978 (1990) (amending 8 U.S.C. § 1101 ). Implementing regulations enacted by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS")1 in 1993 defined a "juvenile court" as "a court located in the United States having jurisdiction under state law to make judicial determinations about the custody and care of juveniles." 8 C.F.R. § 101.6(a) (1993). Those regulations also stated that whether an immigrant was an eligible "juvenile" within the meaning of the SIJ statute depended on "the law of the state in which the juvenile court upon which the alien has been declared dependent is located[.]" 8 C.F.R. § 101.6(c)(1) (1993).

In 1997, Congress amended the SIJ statute to clarify that the statute applied to immigrant juveniles who had been "legally committed to, or placed under the custody of, an agency or department of a state and who has been deemed eligible by that [juvenile] court for long-term foster care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment ...." Pub. L. No. 105-119 § 113, 111 Stat. 2440 (1997) (amending 8 U.S.C. § 1101 ). The 1997 amendments added a new requirement that the Attorney General2 consent to the state court dependency order before SIJ status could be granted. Id. INS regulations defining "juvenile court" remained largely unchanged, but clarified that eligible juveniles were aliens "under twenty-one years of age." 8 C.F.R. §§ 204.11(a), (c)(1) (1999). Federal law continued to defer to state courts applying state law for "declarations of dependency." 8 C.F.R. § 204.11(c)(3) (1999) ; see also USCIS, Policy Manual, vol. 6, pt. J ch. 2 § D.4 ("There is nothing in USCIS guidance that should be construed as instructing juvenile courts on how to apply their own state law.").

In 2008, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act ("TVPRA"), making two significant amendments to the SIJ statute. See Pub. L. No. 110-457 § 235(d), 122 Stat. 5044 (2008). First, the TVPRA removed the requirement that immigrant juveniles seeking SIJ status must be "deemed eligible by [a juvenile] court for long-term foster care due to abuse, neglect, or abandonment." Id. § 235(d)(1)(A). Congress replaced that requirement with the condition that the immigrant seeking SIJ status could not be "reunifi[ed] with 1 or both of [her] parents ... due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar basis found under state law." Id. Second, the TVPRA added an "age-out" provision, which provided that the applicant's eligibility for SIJ status was dependent on her age at the time she applied for SIJ status. Id. § 235(d)(6).

Despite these amendments, however, implementing regulations continue to reference pre-TVPRA statutory text conditioning SIJ status on eligibility for long-term foster care. See 8 C.F.R. § 204.11(a), (c)(4)–(5) (2009) ("SIJ regulation").

B. California Statutory Framework

In 2014, the California legislature added

341 F.Supp.3d 1056

§ 155 to the California Code of Civil Procedure, granting "the juvenile, probate, and family court divisions of the superior court" jurisdiction "to make judicial determinations regarding the custody and care of children within the meaning of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act ( 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1101 et seq. and 8 C.F.R. Sec. 204.11 )." Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 155(a)(1) ; see also Bianka M. v. Super. Ct. , 5 Cal. 5th 1004, 1013, 236 Cal.Rptr.3d 610, 423 P.3d 334 (2018). In 2015, the legislature specifically empowered California probate courts to "appoint a guardian of the person for an unmarried individual who is 18 years of age or older, but who has not yet attained 21 years of age, in connection with a petition to make the necessary findings regarding special immigrant juvenile status." Cal. Prob. Code § 1510.1 ; see also Cal. Assem. Bill No. 900 (2015–2016 Re. Sess.) § 1(a)–(b). In doing so, California probate courts are governed by the same substantive law as guardianships of minors. See Cal. Prob. Code § 1514 (citing Cal. Fam. Code §§ 3020, 3040 et seq. ).

C. Factual Background of This Case

Plaintiffs are four young immigrants seeking to represent a class of "[c]hildren who have received guardianship orders pursuant to [California] Probate Code § 1510.1(a) and who have or will receive denials of their [SIJ status] petitions on the grounds that the state court cannot reunify them with their parents." Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl.") ¶¶ 1, 71.

According to the complaint, J.L. is a 19-year-old immigrant from New Zealand who was abandoned by her biological parents when she was four months old. See Dkt. No. 1 ¶ 18. J.L. is currently living in California with her two aunts. Id. On January 20, 2017, J.L. was placed under the guardianship of her aunts by the Los Angeles County Probate Court. Id. In doing so, the probate court...

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  • R.F.M. v. Nielsen, 18-cv-5068 (JGK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 15 Marzo 2019
    ...to abuse, neglect, or abandonment." Pub. L. No. 105-119 § 113, 111 Stat. 2440, 2460 (1997) (amending 8 U.S.C. § 1101 ); J.L. v. Cissna, 341 F.Supp.3d 1048, 1055 (N.D. Cal. 2018). Congress also added a requirement that the Attorney General "expressly consent[ ] to the dependency order servin......
  • P.J.E.S. v. Wolf, Civ. Action No. 20-2245 (EGS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 18 Noviembre 2020
    ...546 Kirwa , 285 F. Supp. 3d at 42 n.22 (quoting Gates v. Schlesinger , 366 F. Supp. 797, 800 (D.D.C. 1973) ); see also JL v. Cissna , 341 F. Supp. 3d 1048, 1068 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (identifying multiple common harms resulting from deprivation of right to seek humanitarian benefits for abused, ......
  • Doe v. Trump, Case No. 3:19-cv-1743-SI
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)
    • 26 Noviembre 2019
    ..., particularly when, as in this case, there is alleged classwide harm and conduct aimed at a class of persons. See J.L. v. Cissna , 341 F. Supp. 3d 1048, 1070 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (granting a classwide injunction when "preliminary injunctive relief is necessary to preserve the status quo and to......
  • Scholl v. Mnuchin, Case No. 20-cv-05309-PJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • 24 Septiembre 2020
    ...that the government's policy violates federal law, the balance of hardships and public interest tip in their favor. J.L. v. Cissna, 341 F. Supp. 3d 1048, 1070 (N.D. Cal. 2018), (citing Ariz. Dream Act Coal. v. Brewer, 757 F.3d 1053, 1069 (9th Cir. 2014) ; and Valle del Sol, Inc. v. Whiting,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • R.F.M. v. Nielsen, 18-cv-5068 (JGK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • 15 Marzo 2019
    ...to abuse, neglect, or abandonment." Pub. L. No. 105-119 § 113, 111 Stat. 2440, 2460 (1997) (amending 8 U.S.C. § 1101 ); J.L. v. Cissna, 341 F.Supp.3d 1048, 1055 (N.D. Cal. 2018). Congress also added a requirement that the Attorney General "expressly consent[ ] to the dependency order servin......
  • P.J.E.S. v. Wolf, Civ. Action No. 20-2245 (EGS)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 18 Noviembre 2020
    ...546 Kirwa , 285 F. Supp. 3d at 42 n.22 (quoting Gates v. Schlesinger , 366 F. Supp. 797, 800 (D.D.C. 1973) ); see also JL v. Cissna , 341 F. Supp. 3d 1048, 1068 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (identifying multiple common harms resulting from deprivation of right to seek humanitarian benefits for abused, ......
  • Doe v. Trump, Case No. 3:19-cv-1743-SI
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Oregon)
    • 26 Noviembre 2019
    ..., particularly when, as in this case, there is alleged classwide harm and conduct aimed at a class of persons. See J.L. v. Cissna , 341 F. Supp. 3d 1048, 1070 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (granting a classwide injunction when "preliminary injunctive relief is necessary to preserve the status quo and to......
  • Scholl v. Mnuchin, Case No. 20-cv-05309-PJH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • 24 Septiembre 2020
    ...that the government's policy violates federal law, the balance of hardships and public interest tip in their favor. J.L. v. Cissna, 341 F. Supp. 3d 1048, 1070 (N.D. Cal. 2018), (citing Ariz. Dream Act Coal. v. Brewer, 757 F.3d 1053, 1069 (9th Cir. 2014) ; and Valle del Sol, Inc. v. Whiting,......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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