Legalization Assistance Project of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO) v. I.N.S.

Decision Date18 September 1992
Docket Number89-35613 and 89-35706,89-35593,AFL-CIO,Nos. 89-35345,s. 89-35345
Citation976 F.2d 1198
PartiesLEGALIZATION ASSISTANCE PROJECT OF the LOS ANGELES COUNTY FEDERATION OF LABOR (); United California Mexican-American Association; Travelers and Immigrants Aid of Chicago; African Community and Information Center, Inc.; American G.I. Forum; Coalition for Fair Immigration Reform, Los Angeles; Hermandad Mexicana Nacional; One Stop Immigration; International Institute (San Francisco); International Institute (East Bay); Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE; Alan C. Nelson, Commissioner, INS; Edwin Meese; U.S. Attorney General; U.S. Department of State, Defendants-Appellants. LEGALIZATION ASSISTANCE PROJECT OF the LOS ANGELES COUNTY FEDERATION OF LABOR (); United California Mexican-American Association; Travelers and Immigrants Aid of Chicago; African Community and Information Center, Inc.; American G.I. Forum; Coalition for Fair Immigration Reform, Los Angeles; Hermandad Mexicana Nacional; One Stop Immigration; International Institute (San Francisco); International Institute (East Bay); Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE; Alan C. Nelson, Commissioner, INS; Edwin Meese, U.S. Attorney General; U.S. Department of State etc. et al., Defendants-Appellants. LEGALIZATION ASSISTANCE PROJECT OF the LOS ANGELES COUNTY FEDERATION OF LABOR (); United California Mexican-American Association; Travelers and Immigrants Aid of Chicago; African Community and Information Center, Inc.; American G.I. Forum; Coalition for Fair Immigration Reform, Los Angeles; Hermandad Mexicana Nacional; One Stop Immigration; International Institute (San Francisco); International Institute (East Bay); Chinese American Citizens Alliance, Plaintiffs, and Coalition for Fair Immigration Reform, Los Angeles; Hermandad Mexicana Nacional; One Stop Immigration; International Institute (San Francisco), et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE; Alan C. Nelson,
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit

Peter A. Schey, Nat. Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Los Angeles, Cal., and Robert Pauw, Washington Immigration Project, Washington Ass'n of Churches, Robert H. Gibbs, Law Office of Robert H. Gibbs, Seattle, Wash., for plaintiffs-appellees-appellants.

Michael Rubin, Altshuler, Berzon, Nussbaum, Berzon & Rubin, San Francisco, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Donald E. Keener, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., for defendants-appellants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

Before: FARRIS, PREGERSON, and FERGUSON, Circuit Judges.

PREGERSON, Circuit Judge:

OVERVIEW

Congress passed The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 ("IRCA"), Pub.L. 99-603, to create a comprehensive program to regulate immigration to the United States. One of IRCA's main purposes is to grant legalization to certain groups of illegal aliens with longstanding residence in the United States.

To achieve that purpose, IRCA provides that persons who have lived continuously and unlawfully in the United States since January 1, 1982 may become lawful permanent residents if they satisfy certain conditions. The Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") has statutory authority to promulgate regulations establishing criteria and procedures for the legalization process.

In 1988, several individuals and organizations filed suit in federal district court challenging INS policy and regulations on numerous statutory and constitutional grounds. The plaintiffs to that action included five individual nonimmigrants 1 and seven organizations that assist nonimmigrants throughout the legalization process. 2 Their challenge to INS policy and regulations focused on the agency's interpretation of the statutory requirement that a nonimmigrant must have lived continuously and unlawfully in the United States since January 1, 1982 to qualify for legalization under IRCA.

The district court granted both declaratory and injunctive relief, but on a narrower basis than requested by plaintiffs. The district court also granted the government's motion for a stay of all relief pending appeal to this court.

We deferred our own decision in this case because important jurisdictional issues were then pending before the United States Supreme Court and two panels of our circuit. 3 Those cases have now been decided, supplemental briefs were filed by the parties, and this case was resubmitted for decision on September 1, 1992. We have reviewed the parties' numerous contentions and the district court's published and unpublished decisions. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the district court for further proceedings.

DISCUSSION
I. Jurisdiction, Exhaustion of Remedies, and Standing
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

The INS contends that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to review the plaintiffs' challenges to INS policy and regulations. The contention is without merit.

This issue has been resolved by the Supreme Court's decision in McNary v. Haitian Refugee Center, Inc., 498 U.S. 499, 111 S.Ct. 888, 112 L.Ed.2d 1005 (1991), and by our recent decisions in Zambrano v. INS, 972 F.2d 1122 (9th Cir.1992), and in Catholic Social Services, Inc. v. Thornburgh, 956 F.2d 914 (9th Cir.1992). Both the Supreme Court in McNary and our court in Zambrano and in Catholic Social Services concluded that the district court had jurisdiction to review INS regulations promulgated under IRCA. See McNary, 498 U.S. at ----, 111 S.Ct. at 897 (district court had jurisdiction to review INS procedures for evaluating applicants for amnesty under IRCA's Special Agricultural Worker program); Zambrano, 972 F.2d at 1124 (district court had jurisdiction to review INS regulation interpreting IRCA standard for admissible aliens); Catholic In the present case, the statutory provision for judicial review is identical to that construed in Zambrano and Catholic Social Services. Our own case law therefore dictates the conclusion that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs' challenges to INS regulations. 5

                Social Services, 956 F.2d at 919-21 (district court had jurisdiction to review INS regulations interpreting IRCA requirement for continuous physical presence in the United States).   In all of these cases, the statutory provisions for judicial review in IRCA were found to allow federal district courts to hear broad-based constitutional and statutory challenges to INS regulations. 4
                
B. Exhaustion of Remedies

The INS argues on appeal that the district court should not have granted relief because the remedies available to legalization applicants under IRCA have not been exhausted. The district court rejected the agency's arguments about exhaustion on the ground that the organizational plaintiffs have no remedies to exhaust under IRCA. On appeal, the INS contends that individual applicants should have to exhaust their statutory remedies and that the district court's analysis of the exhaustion issue does not address this contention.

We review the district court's decision de novo, Hoeft v. Tucson Unified Sch. Dist., 967 F.2d 1298, 1303 (9th Cir.1992), and conclude that requiring individual applicants to exhaust their statutory remedies would serve no useful purpose here.

The purpose of exhaustion is to allow administrative agencies to complete their own decisionmaking procedures and to discourage premature judicial intervention. The INS argues that judicial review is premature because the agency has not completed its process of adjudicating individual applications for legalization.

The agency's argument is beside the point. The organizational plaintiffs have presented broad-based statutory and constitutional challenges to INS regulations. The organizational plaintiffs are not requesting that the court review individual applications. As to the issues presented by the organizational plaintiffs in this case, the INS has already completed its decisionmaking process.

Requiring individual applicants to exhaust administrative remedies before the organizational plaintiffs may bring broad-based statutory and constitutional challenges makes little sense. The statutory remedies available to individual applicants provide no real opportunity to present the complex constitutional and statutory issues involved here. It is unreasonable to expect individual applicants who are often not represented by counsel to press such arguments. Moreover, individuals who do raise broader challenges to agency regulations do not have remedies in the administrative appeals process that are equivalent to those available in federal court. INS adjudicators are not empowered to invalidate agency regulations. 6 Agency adjudicators We agree with the district court that judicial review of plaintiffs' challenges to INS policy and regulations is not premature. We also agree with the district court that waiting for the agency to adjudicate individual cases before reviewing INS regulations could cause considerable hardship to applicants.

                reviewing statutory or constitutional challenges that might arise in an individual case must review those challenges on the basis of a limited administrative record. 7
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