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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 unlawfully revoking their release from its custody and detaining them 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 a private law firm, the plaintiffs filed this case on October 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 had 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 October 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 October 30, the case was assigned to Judge Cormac J. Carney.

On December 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 December 18, arguing that because they only had learned that removal proceedings were to commence on December 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 December 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 January 25, 2018. 306 F. Supp. 3d 1147 (C.D. Cal. 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 February 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 February 8, the government moved to dismiss the case; the plaintiffs responded on March 2, and the government replied on March 12.

On February 23, the 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. On March 14, Judge Carney granted plaintiffs' motion to relate the cases.

On March 19, the plaintiffs moved for another preliminary injunction and class certification. Meanwhile, the defendants appealed Judge Carney's January 25 preliminary injunction to the Ninth Circuit, which opened a new docket (No. 18-55389).

After a March 26 hearing, Judge Carney denied the government's motion to dismiss, and granted the plaintiffs' habeas claim. 2018 WL 1941756 (C.D. Cal.). 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 April 12, Judge Carney rejected the proposed class definition because a class consisting of 13 members was not numerous enough.

On May 11, 2018, certain defendants moved for dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. On June 4, 2018, Judge Carney denied the motion without prejudice. On May 24, 2018, the government appealed the March 26 order denying their motion to dismiss.

On July 2, 2018, the plaintiffs again moved to certify the class, which the district court approved on August 14, 2018. Judge Carney certified the following class: "All Cambodian nationals in the United States who received final orders of deportation or removal, and were subsequently released from ICE custody, and have not subsequently violated any criminal laws or conditions of their release, and have been or may be re-detained for removal by ICE."

Back at the Ninth Circuit, on December 7, 2018, the government moved to voluntarily dismiss their March 23 appeal of Judge Carney’s preliminary injunction. Voluntary dismissal of this appeal was granted on December 11, 2018. 2018 Us App Lexis 34850 (9th Cir. Dec. 11, 2018).

On December 31, 2018, the plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order, enjoining the government from re-detaining any class member without notice. The plaintiffs alleged that the government had conducted two raids since the raid involving the plaintiffs, detaining many class members in the process. They had received credible information suggesting that another raid was forthcoming and had requested the government to provide class members with notice, which it refused to do without a court order. Judge Carney granted the TRO on January 3, 2019, requiring the government to give at least fourteen days’ notice before re-detaining any class member. Judge Carney also ordered the government to show cause as to why a preliminary injunction should not issue in light of the TRO.

The government then successfully requested an extended period of time to file its opening brief in its second appeal, that of Judge Carney’s March 26 denial of the government’s motion to dismiss. However, shortly thereafter, the government similarly moved to voluntarily dismiss this appeal. The Ninth Circuit granted that dismissal. 2019 Us App Lexis 9447 (9th Cir. Mar. 29, 2019).

Back in the district court, on April 10, 2019, Judge Carney vacated the order to show cause in light of the parties’ stipulation. He ordered the parties to make a good faith effort to settle the case before proceeding with their respective motions for summary judgment, but set a briefing schedule in the event that they do not. Deadlines for briefing are set for September through November of 2019.

The case is ongoing in the district court.

Virginia Weeks - 11/04/2017
Virginia Weeks - 08/26/2018
Ava Morgenstern - 04/21/2018
Alexandra Gilewicz - 04/23/2019

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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
International law
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 All Cambodian nationals in the United States who received final orders of deportation or removal, and were subsequently released from ICE custody, and have not subsequently violated any criminal laws or conditions of their release, and have been or may be re-detained for removal by ICE.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Asian Americans Advancing Justice / AAJC
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Habeas relief
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 10/27/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing IM-CA-0115 : Trinh v. Homan (C.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  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: 08/31/2018
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] (306 F.Supp.3d 1147) (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | 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] (2018 WL 1941756) (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 03/26/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Discharging Order to Show Cause [ECF# 118] (2018 WL 1831789) (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/12/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting in Substantial Part Petitioners' Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 149] (2018 WL 6265014) (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0108-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/14/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Carney, Cormac J. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0002 | IM-CA-0108-0003 | IM-CA-0108-0004 | IM-CA-0108-0005 | IM-CA-0108-0006 | IM-CA-0108-0007 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Standish, Gail J. Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Cho, Darlene M. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Commons, Sean A. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Gelernt, Lee (New York) show/hide docs
Hoq, Laboni Amena (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Igra, Naomi Ariel (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Kao, Winifred (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Kim, Melanie Chun-Yu (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Lapinig, Christopher M. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Lo, Kevin Chun Hoi (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Makabali, Angela C. (California) show/hide docs
Mallow, Michael L. (California) show/hide docs
Ochi, Nicole K. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Prasad, Anoop (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Rowe, Katelyn N. (California) show/hide docs
Zhao, Jingni (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0108-0001 | IM-CA-0108-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Carilli, Joseph F. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Kurz, Julian (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
Liggett, Troy D. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs

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