On September 7, 2009, U.S. citizens who were detained when crossing from Mexico into Texas filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against the Department of State (DOS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) challenging the procedures used by the Customs and Border Protections (CBP). Plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the Refugio del Rio Grande and Jones & Crane, claimed that the procedures violated their due process rights. Plaintiffs initially filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus and a class action complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief.
The original claims arose from the detention of the Castro family at the border. Laura and Nancy Castro were born in the United States. Their mother, a Mexican citizen, later took them to Mexico and registered them as born in Mexico so that the girls could attend school in Mexico. When the women attempted to cross the border 20 years later with a U.S. passport and U.S. birth certificate respectively, they were detained and interrogated. The case was filed while they were still being held at the port of entry.
In the course of several amended complaints, plaintiffs added six additional plaintiffs and multiple additional claims challenging the policies of both DOS and CBP. The Third Amended Complaint by ten individuals included habeas claims, requests for declaratory and injunctive relief, requests for declaration of citizenship, and claims of violations of the Federal Torts Claims Act. Plaintiffs also added a Bivens claim for monetary damages on behalf of the original plaintiffs. On April 26, 2011, the court (Judge Hilda G. Tagle) severed the FTCA and Bivens claims from the rest of the case. The court also severed plaintiffs' citizenship claims to be separate cases.
In the April 26 order, the court ruled on several other motions. It dismissed plaintiffs' claims for unreasonable delay in adjudication. It also dismissed plaintiffs' claims for relief under 8 USC 1503 where plaintiffs had already received their passports. The court also denied plaintiffs' motion for class certification as moot, but allowed leave to refile.
On June 11, 2011 plaintiffs filed their fourth amended complaint. The claims were: (1) violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and the APA in conjunction with jurisdiction under the Mandamus Act for improperly applying the preponderance of the evidence standard in adjudicating passport applications; (2) violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in failing to provide due process in adjudicating passport applications, revoking passports based on non-nationality, hearings for passports denied or revoked; (3) violations of the Equal Protection Clause for denying and revoking passports based on non-nationality; and (4) violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Federal Detainee Act of 2005 due to mistreatment of persons at the border claiming to be U.S. citizens as well as (5) their parents.
On June 27, 2011, plaintiffs re-filed their motion to certify a class requesting that the court certify two classes.
On November 22, 2011, the court ruled on defendants' motion to dismiss. Most claims were dismissed. The only claims that remained were claims 1 pursuant to the Fifth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Mandamus Act and claim 4 under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment. The court, therefore, denied the motion for class certification as moot.
On December 7, 2012, the court ruled on defendants' motions to dismiss the remaining claims. The court granted in part, and denied in part, allowing the claims to go forward with respect to certain named plaintiffs.
On March 13, 2013, the plaintiffs filed another motion for class certification.
On September 30, 2013, plaintiffs filed their fifth and currently last amended complaint. At this point, the case has come to center on the standard of proof applied by DOS in adjudicating U.S. citizenship claims and the agency's failure to afford U.S. citizenship claimants any meaningful opportunity to challenge its decisions to deny a U.S. passport application or revoke an existing passport. Specifically, plaintiffs allege that DOS made arbitrary requests for documents and asked for irrelevant personal information when deciding whether to issue passports. Plaintiffs argue that DOS practices violate their due process rights. They continue to request class certification and declaratory and injunctive relief.
On October 31, 2013, defendants filed a motion to dismiss the claims in plaintiffs' amended complaint. As of November 18, 2013, that motion is still pending before the court.Jennifer Bronson - 11/18/2013