On March 4, 2002, attorneys with the American Immigration Law Foundation and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on behalf of immigrants granted asylum in the U.S., alleging that federal immigration agencies and officials had improperly administered the system and waiting list that determined when asylees could become lawful permanent residents and failed to provide asylees with proper employment endorsements. Plaintiffs alleged violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.; the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 551 et seq.; and the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fifth Amendment. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as class certification.
At issue was the government's handing of "refugee admission numbers." Under the Refugee Act of 1980, the President could annually authorize the admission of up to 50,000 refugees to the U.S. Out of that number, the Attorney General could use up to 10,000 refugee admission numbers to grant lawful permanent resident status (green card) to asylees already in the U.S. Plaintiffs alleged that between 1994 and 2002, over 20,000 refugee admission numbers that had been set aside by the Attorney General for asylee adjustment went unused and that defendants should have used those numbers to clear out the backlog of asylees who applied for green cards. Plaintiffs further claimed that once refugees were granted asylum the government was required to provide proper work papers to the asylees, but it continually failed to do so. Defendants denied the allegations and took the position that unused refugee admission numbers expired at the end of each fiscal year.
On January 14, 2003, the District Court (Judge Richard H. Kyle) certified the case as a class action on behalf of tens of thousands of asylees, defining the class and subclasses as:
All asylees in the United States who have applied for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence and whose applications for adjustment remain pending;
Subclass I - All asylees who filed their adjustment of status applications with the INS on or before January 16, 1998;
Subclass II - All asylees who filed their adjustment of status applications after January 16, 1998, and on or before June 9, 1998;
Subclass III - All asylees who filed their adjustment of status applications after June 9, 1998;
Subclass IV - All asylees who applied for or applied to renew an Employment Authorization Document.
The parties then filed cross-motions for summary judgment. By Memorandum Opinion and Order dated February 12, 2004, Judge Kyle denied defendants' motion for summary judgment and granted plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment. Judge Kyle ordered the defendants to (1) use all unused and misused asylee adjustment numbers that had been made available in prior years to adjust the status of asylees and (2) provide all asylees with an employment authorization endorsement that was valid throughout the duration of the alien's status as an asylee. Ngwanyia v. Ashcroft, 302 F.Supp.2d 1076 (D.Minn.,2004). Defendants appealed.
Settlement negotiations followed, and the parties reached a proposed settlement agreement in January 1995. The defendants' appeal was stayed pending court approval of the settlement. The Court conducted a fairness hearing on June 15, 2005 and formally approved the class settlement on July 12, 2005. Ngwanyia v. Gonzales, 376 F.Supp.2d 923 (D.Minn. 2005). Under the Settlement Agreement, the government agreed to make an additional 31,000 asylee adjustment numbers available during 2005-2008 to adjust the status of asylees who had applied for permanent residence. The Agreement also provided for changes to the issuance of work permits to asylees.Dan Dalton - 11/19/2007