University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Damus v. Nielsen IM-DC-0045
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-00578-JEB ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
This class action suit, filed on March 15, 2018, sought to enjoin the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from exercising its policy and practice of detaining asylum seekers in order to deter other potential migrants from seeking refuge in the United States. The plaintiffs, represented by private ... read more >
This class action suit, filed on March 15, 2018, sought to enjoin the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from exercising its policy and practice of detaining asylum seekers in order to deter other potential migrants from seeking refuge in the United States. The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, were asylum seekers who had been imprisoned without individualized determinations that they posed a flight risk or danger to the community. They alleged violations of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and Fifth Amendment Due Process. The plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and assigned to Judge James E. Boasberg.

The plaintiffs stated that, upon arriving in the U.S., the government determined they had a credible fear of persecution and referred them to immigration courts for further assessment of their asylum claims. In the meantime, DHS imprisoned them and did not provide individualized review of the need for detention. The plaintiffs argued that they were not detained due to individualized assessments that they pose a flight risk or danger to the community, but rather because DHS wanted to deter other migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S.

The plaintiffs argued that DHS adopted this broad policy of detaining asylum seekers at five Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices on the basis that it would deter other migrants. The plaintiffs argued this policy was in violation of a 2015 opinion from this district court as well as Supreme Court precedent holding that such general deterrence interest can inform criminal but not civil detention, and that a conclusory national security interest was not sufficient to support the policy. The plaintiffs also argued that DHS' policy violated its own Parole Directive, which prohibits detaining asylum seekers who do not pose a flight risk or a danger to the community.

On March 20, 2018, the plaintiffs moved to certify the class, defined in the complaint as: "(1) All arriving asylum seekers; (2) who are found to have a credible fear of persecution or torture; and (3) who are or will be detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; (4) after having been denied parole under the authority of ICE’s Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark, or Philadelphia Field Office."

The plaintiffs then moved for preliminary injunction on March 30, 2018, seeking to enjoin the government from continuing to apply its deterrence policy.

The case is ongoing.

Virginia Weeks - 03/23/2018
Virginia Weeks - 04/01/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Discrimination-basis
Immigration status
General
Over/Unlawful Detention
Placement in detention facilities
Immigration/Border
Asylum - criteria
Asylum - procedure
Constitutional rights
Detention - criteria
Detention - procedures
Refugees
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description Asylum seekers detained by DHS after determination they had credible fear of persecution
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
No documents currently in the collection

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