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Case Name Chhoeun v. Marin IM-CA-0108
Docket / Court 8:17-cv-01898 ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Attorney Organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice / AAJC
Case Summary
Two refugees whose families fled Cambodia in the 1970s filed this class action lawsuit, challenging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for arbitrarily and unlawfully detaining them. The plaintiffs represented other Cambodian refugees living in the U.S. since escaping the violence of the ... read more >
Two refugees whose families fled Cambodia in the 1970s filed this class action lawsuit, challenging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for arbitrarily and unlawfully detaining them. The plaintiffs represented other Cambodian refugees living in the U.S. since escaping the violence of the Khmer Rouge regime. The plaintiffs argued that ICE violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by revoking their release from its custody unlawfully, and by detaining them unlawfully when removal was not reasonably foreseeable and without individualized determinations of danger and flight risk. The plaintiffs sought habeas, declaratory, and injunctive relief. Represented by Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the private law firm Sidley Austin, the plaintiffs filed this case on Oct. 27, 2017, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The complaint sought to declare a class of approximately 1,900 individuals. The plaintiffs stated that all class members escaped the Khmer Rouge regime and its "campaign of mass murder and torture" in Cambodia in the 1970s when they were young children. They have lived in the United States ever since, growing up "in communities in crisis...struggl[ing] with unaddressed trauma, poverty, and violence-ridden neighborhoods, with almost no culturally competent resources to address their needs." Class members "made mistakes in their youth," which led to involvement in the criminal justice system, loss of their Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status, and removal proceedings. However, ICE subsequently released the class members after Cambodia disallowed repatriation. ICE allowed the class members to return to their communities but required them to regularly report back to demonstrate they were complying with the conditions of their release. Many of these class members established families in the U.S.

The complaint stated that, as of Oct. 2016, Cambodia suspended a 2002 repatriation agreement with the U.S. A year later, following a U.S. government freeze on further tourist visas to Cambodians until Cambodia agreed to aid the U.S. in removing Cambodian refugees, ICE began raiding Cambodian refugee homes and workplaces. The plaintiffs asserted that ICE conducted these raids "without cause and without providing procedural protections required by law . . . [and] without any evidence that Cambodia would now accept their repatriation." Further, the plaintiffs argued that they "received no adequate explanation of the reasons for detention, no opportunity to be heard regarding any purported reasons for detention, and no individualized consideration before a neutral decisionmaker regarding whether they pose a danger or flight risk that could warrant detention."

On Oct. 30, the case was assigned to Judge Cormac J. Carney.

On Dec. 12, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. They also filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) as to the removal of plaintiffs scheduled to begin on Dec. 18, arguing that because they only had learned that removal proceedings were to commence on Dec. 7, they needed the TRO so that they could have an opportunity to reopen and challenge their orders of removal. These documents are not publicly available.

Judge Carney granted the TRO on Dec. 14. While the amended complaint is not publicly available, it appears that the complaint sought to define a class "on behalf of approximately 1,900 individuals who received orders of removal to Cambodia but were subsequently released from custody and have since been living in the United States."

Judge Carney granted a preliminary injunction on Jan. 25, 2018. He enjoined the government from executing final removal orders as to the plaintiffs and a subclass of 92 putative class members who received or were being considered for travel papers. The injunction prevented final removal orders until Feb. 5, 2018. Judge Carney held that denying an injunction "amounts to a denial of due process" because while removal orders for many of the plaintiffs have been dormant for over a decade, "[c]ircumstances have changed in the interim that may allow Petitioners to raise serious questions regarding the validity of their underlying convictions and removal orders."

On Feb. 8, the government moved to dismiss the case; the plaintiffs responded on Mar. 2, and the government replied on Mar. 12.

On Feb. 23, plaintiffs moved to relate this case to Trinh v. Homan, a case challenging ICE's detention of Vietnamese refugees stripped of their LPR status due to criminal convictions. The government objected to this motion on Feb. 28, and plaintiffs replied on Mar. 7. On Mar. 14, Judge Carney granted plaintiffs' motion to relate the cases.

On Mar. 19, plaintiffs moved for another preliminary injunction and class certification. A motion hearing is scheduled for Apr. 16.

On Mar. 23, defendants appealed Judge Carney's Jan. 25 preliminary injunction to the Ninth Circuit, which opened a new docket (No. 18-55389). The opening brief is due June 19.

After a Mar. 26 hearing, Judge Carney denied the government's motion to dismiss, and granted plaintiffs' habeas claim. First, Judge Carney held that the Court had jurisdiction over the habeas petition and due process claim, because plaintiffs challenged not the removal order itself but the legality of the detention. Judge Carney then ordered plaintiff released from ICE custody, finding his arrest, detention, and threatened deportation unlawful.

Judge Carney wrote:
Chhoeun poses no danger to the community. Prior to ICE’s wrongful re-detention of him, he was living peaceably in the community for the past fourteen years. He was gainfully employed. He had built strong ties to his family and his community. The Government simply had no justification to take away, without due process, Chhoeun’s liberty to carry out his life. . . . The Government’s argument [that an person subject to an order of removal lacks due process rights] trivializes, indeed ignores, fundamental principles of liberty and due process embedded in our Constitution. . . . And due process demands that the Government consider the totality of an individual’s circumstances before taking away his or her liberty. Ragbir v. Sessions. . . . The Government’s position, which would do away with any individualized consideration before taking away someone’s liberty, is repugnant to due process.

On Apr. 12, Judge Carney rejected the proposed class definition consisting of 13 members as not numerous enough.

On May 24, 2018, the government appealed the March 26 order denying their motion to dismiss.

The case is ongoing in the district and circuit courts.

Virginia Weeks - 11/04/2017
Virginia Weeks - 05/25/2018
Ava Morgenstern - 04/21/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Habeas Corpus
Over/Unlawful Detention
Placement in detention facilities
Constitutional rights
Deportation - criteria
Deportation - procedure
Detention - criteria
Detention - procedures
National Origin/Ethnicity
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Asian/Pacific Islander
Special Case Type
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description Cambodian refugees living in the U.S. since they escaped the violence of the Khmer Rouge regime
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Asian Americans Advancing Justice / AAJC
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Habeas relief
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2018 - n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing IM-CA-0115 : Trinh v. Homan (C.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Advocates File Lawsuit to Stop ICE Raids on Cambodian Refugees
Date: Nov. 1, 2017
By: Asian Americans Advancing Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

8:17−cv−01898−CJC−GJS (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/06/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Habeas Corpus Class Action Petition and Class Action Complaint For Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-CA-0108-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/27/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Petitioners' Application for a Temporary Restraining Order [ECF# 32] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/14/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 74] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/25/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Overuling Respondents’ Objection to Notice of Related Case [ECF# 91] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying the Government's Motion to Dismiss and Granting Relief on Unlawful Detention Claims [ECF# 104] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/26/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Discharging Order to Show Cause [ECF# 118] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Carney, Cormac J. (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0002 | IM-CA-0108-0003 | IM-CA-0108-0004 | IM-CA-0108-0005 | IM-CA-0108-0006 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Standish, Gail J. Court not on record [Magistrate]
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cho, Darlene M. (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Commons, Sean A. (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Gelernt, Lee (New York)
Hoq, Laboni Amena (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Igra, Naomi Ariel (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Kao, Winifred (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Kim, Melanie Chun-Yu (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Lapinig, Christopher M. (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Lo, Kevin Chun Hoi (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Makabali, Angela C. (California)
Mallow, Michael L. (California)
Ochi, Nicole K. (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Prasad, Anoop (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Rowe, Katelyn N. (California)
Zhao, Jingni (California)
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Carilli, Joseph F. Jr. (District of Columbia)
Kurz, Julian (District of Columbia)
Liggett, Troy D. (District of Columbia)

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