Ramirez v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Decision Date21 September 2021
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 18-508 (RC)
Citation568 F.Supp.3d 10
Parties Wilmer Garcia RAMIREZ, et al., Plaintiffs, v. U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Barack Echols, Eimer Stahl LLP, Erin Reynolds, Michael B. Slade, Amanda Jacobowski, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Ruben Loyo, Mark Fleming, Pro Hac Vice, National Immigrant Justice Center, Stephen R. Patton, Kirland & Ellis, Chicago, IL, Gianna Borroto, Katherine E. Melloy Goettel, American Immigration Council, Paul L. Quincy, Tia Trout Perez, Britney Ann Lewis, Patrick T. Haney, Rebecca Wall Forrestal, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Washington, DC, Jonathan Fombonne, Harris County Attorney's Office, Orla P. O'Callaghan, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Houston, TX, for Plaintiff Wilmer Garcia Ramirez.

Barack Echols, Eimer Stahl LLP, Erin Reynolds, Michael B. Slade, Pro Hac Vice, Amanda Jacobowski, Stephen R. Patton, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Ruben Loyo, Mark Fleming, Pro Hac Vice, National Immigrant Justice Center, Chicago, IL, Gianna Borroto, Katherine E. Melloy Goettel, American Immigration Council, Paul L. Quincy, Tia Trout Perez, Britney Ann Lewis, Patrick T. Haney, Rebecca Wall Forrestal, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Washington, DC, Jonathan Fombonne, Harris County Attorney's Office, Orla P. O'Callaghan, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Houston, TX, for Plaintiff Sulma Hernandez Alfaro.

Gianna Borroto, Katherine E. Melloy Goettel, American Immigration Council, Tia Trout Perez, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Washington, DC, Jonathan Fombonne, Harris County Attorney's Office, Houston, TX, Michael B. Slade, Pro Hac Vice, Amanda Jacobowski, Stephen R. Patton, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Ruben Loyo, Mark Fleming, Pro Hac Vice, National Immigrant Justice Center, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff Ana P.

Cara Elizabeth Alsterberg, Christina Parascandola, Colin Abbott Kisor, Theo Nickerson, Evan Paul Schultz, Benjamin Jay Zeitlin, Kevin Charles Hirst, William Herrick Weiland, Yamileth G. Davila, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT AND PERMANENT INJUNCTION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge

This case concerns violations of the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA") by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE" or "the agency") in connection with ICE's processing of eighteen-year-olds who came to the United States as unaccompanied alien children ("UACs"). Plaintiffs—immigrant teenagers who entered the United States as UACs—bring this class action against ICE, the Acting Director of ICE, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), and the Secretary of Homeland Security (collectively "Defendants" or "the Government").

Following a three-week trial, the Court issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Concerning Liability in this case. See Ramirez v. U.S. Immigr. & Customs Enf't , 471 F. Supp. 3d 88 (D.D.C. 2020) (" FF & CL"). The Court found that ICE was liable under the APA for failing to follow procedures made necessary by the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2013 ("VAWA"), 8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2)(B), and for refusing to take actions it was required to take under that statute. Id. at 182–91. Plaintiffs have now moved, pursuant to Rule 54 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for the entry of a Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction. For the reasons explained below, the Court concludes that limited injunctive relief is appropriate here, in order to ensure that the previously found violations do not continue going forward.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court assumes familiarity with its prior Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and incorporates those findings of fact by reference here. With that in mind, only a brief summary of the dispute at issue is warranted.

When minors lacking immigration status arrive in the United States without parents or other guardians, they are designated UACs and are placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Resettlement ("HHS" and "ORR"). If they are still in custody on their eighteenth birthday, the now-adult immigrants "age out" of HHS and ORR custody and are transferred to ICE custody. Immigrants who undergo this transfer from HHS to ORR are referred to by the parties as "age-outs," and a subset of these age-outs make up the plaintiff class in this case. Section 1232(c)(2)(B) requires that when ICE receives custody of an age-out it "consider placement in the least restrictive setting available after taking into account the alien's danger to self, danger to the community, and risk of flight." 8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2)(B). The Court has found Defendants liable for failing to follow the requirements of the statute and found in the Plaintiffs’ favor with regard to both counts of their Amended Complaint. In particular, the Court found that Defendants act in a manner that is "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law," in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(2), when they fail to make a custody determination that considers placement in the least restrictive setting after taking into account the factors identified in the statute (Count I). FF & CL at 175-91. The Court also found that by this same conduct Defendants "fail[ ] to take a discrete agency action that [the agency] is required to take," in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706(1) (Count II). Id.

Section 1232(c)(2)(B) reads as follows:

If [an unaccompanied alien child in the custody of the Secretary of HHS] reaches 18 years of age and is transferred to the custody of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary [of DHS] shall consider placement in the least restrictive setting available after taking into account the alien's danger to self, danger to the community, and risk of flight. Such aliens shall be eligible to participate in alternative to detention programs, utilizing a continuum of alternatives based on the alien's need for supervision, which may include placement of the alien with an individual or an organizational sponsor, or in a supervised group home.

8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2)(B). As the Court has explained, considering placement in the least restrictive setting available "necessarily requires making an inquiry aimed at determining what settings are available and which of these is the least restrictive," and the evidence and testimony in this case demonstrated that "ICE officers are consistently failing to take either of these steps." FF & CL at 191.

Their training does not emphasize the proper considerations or decisionmaking processes and, in fact, gives instructions that are contrary to the statute. Field officers are left with nearly unbridled discretion to make age-out custody determinations however they would like, and this discretion is exercised in ways that does not comply with the agency's statutory obligations.

Id.

Plaintiffs originally filed this lawsuit on March 5, 2018. Compl., ECF No. 1. They amended their complaint later that same month. Am. Compl., ECF No. 21. The Court went on to grant Plaintiffs’ subsequent motion for class certification, allowing Plaintiffs to proceed on behalf of a class defined as:

All former unaccompanied alien children who are detained or will be detained by ICE after being transferred by ORR because they have turned 18 years of age and as to whom ICE did not consider placement in the least restrictive setting available, including alternatives to detention programs, as required by 8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2)(B).

Mem. Op. Den. Defs.’ Mot. Dismiss and Granting Pls.’ Mot. for Class Certification. at 56–57 ("MTD and Class Cert. Op."), ECF No. 50. The Court conducted a bench trial over the course of eighteen days between December 2, 2019 and January 15, 2020. Transcript of Bench Trial ("Trial Tr."), ECF Nos. 280–313.1

Following the close of trial, each party submitted proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law to the Court. One set of briefing, at the Court's instruction, addressed remedies. Defs.’ Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Concerning Remedies[2 ] ("Defs.’ Remedies Br."), ECF No. 267; Pls.’ Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Concerning Remedies ("Pls.’ Remedies Br."), ECF No. 272; Pls.’ Mem. Concerning Remedies ("Pls.’ Remedies Mem."), ECF No. 273. The parties then filed responses to each other's proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Pls.’ Resp. to Defs.’ Proposed Remedies Mem. ("Pls.’ Remedies Resp."), ECF No. 318; Defs.’ Reply to Pls.’ Mem. Concerning Remedies ("Defs.’ Mem. Resp."), ECF No. 319; Defs.’ Resps. To Pls.’ Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Concerning Remedies ("Defs.’ Remedies Resp."), ECF No. 322.

On July 2, 2020, the Court issued its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law concerning liability in this case, finding Defendants liable in the ways described above. A number of developments, however, have transpired in the thirteen months since this opinion was issued, and in the eighteen months since the parties submitted their proposed remedies briefing. During this time, at the Court's direction, the Plaintiffs have reviewed and proposed revisions to Defendants’ revised training materials and Age-Out Review Worksheet ("AORW"). See Nov. 19, 2020 Joint Status Report, ECF No. 345; Jan. 22, 2021 Joint Status Report, ECF No. 355. The parties also engaged in mediation. See Dec. 16, 2020 Order Referring Case to Magistrate Judge for Mediation, ECF No. 352. Plaintiffs have now moved for the entry of a final judgment under Federal Rule of Procedure 54(b) and a permanent injunction, submitting to the Court a proposed Final Judgment and Injunction ("Pls.’ Proposed Final J. and Inj."), ECF No. 359-1, which incorporates a number of concessions, including the withdrawal of Plaintiffs’ previous request for a Special Master and the use of Defendants’ AORW form. See Pls.’ Mot. for Entry of Final J. and Permanent Inj. ("Pls.’ Mot."), ...

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  • HEEDING THE VOICES OF MIGRANT YOUTH: THE NEED FOR ACTION.
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    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 121 No. 6, April 2023
    • April 1, 2023
    ...[perma.cc/UAX4-KDT8]. (33.) ORR UAC, supra note 10. (34.) See id.; Ramirez v. U.S. Immigr. & Customs Enft, 568 F. Supp. 3d 10, 19, 30 (D.D.C. 2021); Ramirez, No. 18-cv-508 (D.D.C. Sept. 21, 2021) (final judgment and permanent injunction); Ramirez, No. 18-cv-508 (D.D.C. Nov. 10, 2021) (a......

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