Maria S. v. Doe, CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:13–CV–108

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
Writing for the CourtAndrew S. Hanen, United States District Judge
Citation267 F.Supp.3d 923
Parties MARIA S., as next friend FOR E.H.F., S.H.F., and A.S.G., minors, Plaintiffs, v. John DOE, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 1:13–CV–108
Decision Date21 July 2017

267 F.Supp.3d 923

MARIA S., as next friend FOR E.H.F., S.H.F., and A.S.G., minors, Plaintiffs,
v.
John DOE, et al., Defendants.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 1:13–CV–108

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Brownsville Division.

Signed July 21, 2017


Efren Carlos Olivares, South Texas Civil Rights Project, Alamo, TX, Jennifer K. Harbury, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Inc., Weslaco, TX, Marinda Van Dalen, Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid Inc., Brownsville, TX, for Plaintiffs.

Christopher D. Pineda, United States Attorneys Office, Brownsville, TX, Regan Cook Hildebrand, Pro Hac Vice, US Dept of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Andrew S. Hanen, United States District Judge

This case presents one of the most lamentable set of circumstances that this Court has ever been called upon to address. A young woman who was living and working in the United States, albeit illegally, who was by all accounts otherwise law abiding and was providing for her family to the best of her ability, was returned to her native Mexico and was soon thereafter killed. No one involved in this matter—not the parties, not the lawyers, and certainly not the Court—has anything but a profound sense of sadness about the disastrous chain of events that ended in the decedent's murder. The Plaintiffs lost their mother, and their family lost an individual whom they, no doubt, cherished and loved.

This is a case in which there will be no winners regardless of which way the Court rules. The parties and the Court are faced with a situation that can only be described as sorrowful: a young woman was killed, her estranged boyfriend has been convicted and jailed, and the survivors are left to deal with what remains. This lawsuit is no

267 F.Supp.3d 926

doubt part of an attempt to do just that—provide support for the young woman's children and to help provide some sense of closure for all. While those involved must cope with their loss, the law requires that the Court remain objective. The lawyers in this matter have done their best to represent their respective clients. The Court will now address the pending motions, as it must, without bias or sympathy.

I. Procedural History

Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Defs.' Mot. For Summ. J., Doc. No. 118], Plaintiffs' Response [Pls.' Resp, Doc. No. 123], Defendants' Reply in Support [Defs.' Reply, Doc. No. 129], and Plaintiffs' Surreply [Pls.' Surreply, Doc. No. 137].

Defendants previously filed a motion to dismiss, which this Court denied. [Memo Op. & Order, Doc. No. 81]. Rejecting the Defendants' argument that Laura Karina Flores Salazar ("Laura S.") had no protected constitutional rights at stake, the Court ruled that Laura S.—though an illegal alien—was entitled to Fifth Amendment protection while in the United States in the custody of Custom and Border Patrol ("CBP") officials.1 [Id. at 22]. After identifying the clearly established rights at stake, the Court ruled as a matter of law that a waiver of those rights obtained through coercion would not be objectively reasonable in light of clearly established law. [Id. at 23].

The Court subsequently allowed limited discovery on the issue of qualified immunity. The Defendants have now filed a motion for summary judgment alleging: (1) that Agent Ruben Garcia ("Agent Garcia") should be granted judgment as a matter of law, (2) that all Defendants are protected by qualified immunity, and (3) that Plaintiffs have not pleaded a legally cognizable claim. [Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., Doc. No. 118].

The Plaintiffs moved to strike part of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as Plaintiffs believed that Defendants impermissibly moved for summary judgment on the causal link between the Defendants conduct and Laura S.'s murder. [Doc. No. 121]. Among other topics, the Defendants' Motion highlighted the great difficulty Plaintiffs would face in proving that Defendants' behavior was the proximate cause of Laura S.'s death were this suit to proceed past the qualified immunity stage.2 Nevertheless, the Court denied

267 F.Supp.3d 927

the motion to strike, clarified that the sole issue before the Court on summary judgment would be qualified immunity, and explained that the Court would only consider those parts of the pleadings that relate to the issue of qualified immunity. [Doc. No. 122]. Consistent with that order, the Court will consider only the issues related to qualified immunity that have been raised in Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court waited on the United States Supreme Court to rule in the cases of Hernandez v. Mesa , ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 2003, 198 L.Ed.2d 625 (U.S. 2017) and Ziglar v. Abbasi , ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S.Ct. 1843, 198 L.Ed.2d 290 (U.S. 2017) as both cases contained issues which could have impacted this case. The Supreme Court released both cases during the last two weeks of its term leaving no impediment to this Court's ruling.

II. Factual Background

While most of the key facts are in dispute, some facts are either agreed to or conceded for purposes of this Motion. The Plaintiffs in this case are the three surviving children of Laura S. Laura S. was born in Mexico, and despite having no legal status in the United States, lived here at various times in her life. For many years, Laura S. suffered physical abuse at the hands of her then boyfriend and the father of two of the Plaintiffs, Sergio Misael Hernandez ("Sergio H."). In 2008, Sergio H. threatened to kill Laura S. In response, Laura S.—fearing for her life—obtained a protective order against Sergio H. from a municipal court in McAllen, Texas.3 At some point, prior to the key events covered by this Motion, Sergio H. returned to Mexico and was allegedly working for a drug cartel.

Though Sergio H.'s physical proximity was no longer a problem for Laura S. given that she remained in the United States (albeit illegally), Plaintiffs claim that Sergio H. still posed a danger to her as he threatened Laura S. that he would kill her if he ever saw her again. According to Plaintiffs, Laura S. was worried that Sergio H. would follow through on his threat and murder her if she was deported to Mexico. The claims at bar result from the events preceding Laura S.'s death, while she was in CBP custody at CBP's processing center in Weslaco, Texas.

On the early morning of June 8, 2009, Laura S. was driving a car near Pharr, Texas with three passengers: her cousin Elizabeth Alvarez ("Alvarez") and friends Arturo Morales ("Morales") and Saray Cardiel ("Cardiel"). The four were allegedly on their way to a popular 24–hour hamburger restaurant around 2:00 AM when they were stopped by a police officer for a driving infraction. The officer asked the four passengers for proof of citizenship or immigration status. Alvarez had a "laser visa" which allowed her to legally cross back and forth from Mexico and the United States.4 Laura S., Cardiel, and Morales were unable to satisfy the officer's request, and the officer subsequently notified CBP. According to Plaintiffs, Laura S., fearing deportation, began to weep and told the officer that Sergio H. would harm her if she was forced to return to Mexico.

The officer released the group, minus Alvarez, to Agent Ramiro Garza, a CBP

267 F.Supp.3d 928

agent ("Agent Garza"). Since Laura S. had been driving the vehicle when stopped, Alvarez stayed behind with the police officer and waited for her mom and aunt to pick her up. Laura S. apparently told Agent Garza a similar story—that she feared returning to Mexico because of Sergio H. and that she needed additional time to produce her protective order. Agent Garza placed Laura S., Cardiel, and Morales in his vehicle, and transported them to a CBP processing center in Weslaco, Texas. Laura S. allegedly continued to weep, plead, and beg for release during the entire ride to the CBP processing center.

Agent Garza, Agent Garcia, and other unknown CBP agents processed Laura S., Cardiel, and Morales with varying degrees of involvement. Morales was processed separately from Laura S. and Cardiel. Agent Garza and another CBP agent fingerprinted and interviewed Laura S. and Cardiel and presented each of them with a Form I–826. This form requires an illegal alien to make a choice from three options, one of which results in voluntary return to one's country of origin.5 Laura S. reviewed and signed the Spanish version of Form I–826. [See Defs.' Ex. 2, Doc. No. 119–2 at 4].

Form I–826 includes a "Notice of Rights."6 The Court quotes the translation included as part of the summary judgment evidence. Form I–826 states in part:

You have been arrested because immigration officers believe that you are illegally in the United States. You have the right to a hearing before the Immigration Court to determine whether you may remain in the United States. If you request a hearing, you may be detained in custody or you may be eligible to be released on bond, until your hearing date. In the alternative, you may request to return to your country as soon as possible, without a hearing.

You have the right to contact an attorney or other legal representative to represent you at your hearing, or to answer
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4 practice notes
  • Cozayatl Sampedro v. Schriro, CIVIL NO. 3:18-CV-00078 (KAD)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • March 28, 2019
    ...Consular Identification Card is an ID card issued to Mexican nationals living in the United States." Maria S. for E.H.F. v. Doe , 267 F. Supp. 3d 923, 947 (S.D. Tex. 2017).3 Mr. Sampedro also argues in passing in his opposition memorandum that if this detention was part of a larger departme......
  • Mantissa Corp. v. Ondot Sys., Inc., CASE NO. 4:15–CV–1133
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • July 26, 2017
    ...Court clearly held that the definition of where a domestic corporation "resides" for purposes of § 1400(b) has remained the same since 267 F.Supp.3d 923 Fourco was decided in 1957. Because TC Heartland did not change the law in this regard, the improper venue defense was available to Ondot ......
  • Goode v. City of Southaven, NO. 3:17-CV-60-MPM-RP
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi
    • March 7, 2019
    ...solely based on the period of time that elapsed between a statement and the event it references." Maria S. for E.H.F. v. Doe, 267 F. Supp. 3d 923, 938 (S.D. Tex. 2017) (citing United States v. Hefferon, 314 F.3d 211, 223 (5th Cir. 2002)). "The Rule 803(2) Advisory Committee Notes state that......
  • Goode v. City of Southaven, NO. 3:17-CV-60-MPM-RP
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi
    • March 7, 2019
    ...solely based on the period of time that elapsed between a statement and the event it references." Maria S. for E.H.F. v. Doe, 267 F.Supp.3d 923, 938 (S.D. Tex. 2017) (citing United States v. Hefferon, 314 F.3d 211, 223 (5th Cir. 2002)). "The Rule 803(2) Advisory Committee Notes state that '......
4 cases
  • Cozayatl Sampedro v. Schriro, CIVIL NO. 3:18-CV-00078 (KAD)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • March 28, 2019
    ...Consular Identification Card is an ID card issued to Mexican nationals living in the United States." Maria S. for E.H.F. v. Doe , 267 F. Supp. 3d 923, 947 (S.D. Tex. 2017).3 Mr. Sampedro also argues in passing in his opposition memorandum that if this detention was part of a larger departme......
  • Mantissa Corp. v. Ondot Sys., Inc., CASE NO. 4:15–CV–1133
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • July 26, 2017
    ...Court clearly held that the definition of where a domestic corporation "resides" for purposes of § 1400(b) has remained the same since 267 F.Supp.3d 923 Fourco was decided in 1957. Because TC Heartland did not change the law in this regard, the improper venue defense was available to Ondot ......
  • Goode v. City of Southaven, NO. 3:17-CV-60-MPM-RP
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi
    • March 7, 2019
    ...solely based on the period of time that elapsed between a statement and the event it references." Maria S. for E.H.F. v. Doe, 267 F. Supp. 3d 923, 938 (S.D. Tex. 2017) (citing United States v. Hefferon, 314 F.3d 211, 223 (5th Cir. 2002)). "The Rule 803(2) Advisory Committee Notes state that......
  • Goode v. City of Southaven, NO. 3:17-CV-60-MPM-RP
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi
    • March 7, 2019
    ...solely based on the period of time that elapsed between a statement and the event it references." Maria S. for E.H.F. v. Doe, 267 F.Supp.3d 923, 938 (S.D. Tex. 2017) (citing United States v. Hefferon, 314 F.3d 211, 223 (5th Cir. 2002)). "The Rule 803(2) Advisory Committee Notes state that '......

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