University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name L.R. v. Azar IM-CA-0124
Docket / Court 2:18-cv-05741 ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection Civil Rights Challenges to Trump Immigration Enforcement Orders
Attorney Organization Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law
Legal Services/Legal Aid
National Center for Youth Law
Case Summary
This class action suit, filed on June 29, 2018, sought to enjoin the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), of which ORR is a component part, from causing grave harm to migrant and asylum-seeking children in its care. 2018 WL 3209193. The ... read more >
This class action suit, filed on June 29, 2018, sought to enjoin the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), of which ORR is a component part, from causing grave harm to migrant and asylum-seeking children in its care. 2018 WL 3209193. The plaintiffs--represented by the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law, National Center for Youth Law, the Immigration Law Clinic at the UC Davis Law School, and private counsel--were members of the class protected under the consent decree issued in Flores v. Sessions (“Flores Settlement”), available here in this Clearinghouse. The plaintiffs alleged violations of that Settlement, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101, William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) 18 U.S.C. § 1589, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) 5 U.S.C. § 703, as well as the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and First Amendment’s Freedom of Association Clause. They sued the Secretary of HHS and the Director of ORR under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 2241, the APA, Bivens, the TVPRA, and the rights conferred to the plaintiffs in the Flores Settlement. They sought injunctive and declaratory relief, a writ of habeas corpus for their release from ORR custody, nominal damages, and attorneys’ fees. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and assigned to Judge Dolly Maizie Gee.

The named plaintiffs are several children in ORR custody (in facilities in Texas, California, New York, and Michigan) and two nonprofit organizations, the San Fernando Valley Refugee Children Center, Inc. and the Unaccompanied Central American Refugee Empowerment. The plaintiffs alleged that ORR confines unaccompanied alien children in residential treatment centers (RTCs) without a meaningful opportunity to challenge allegations that they are dangerous or pose a flight risk or that their parents or other custodians are unfit to care for them. The complaint also states that the children are detained in conditions where they are administered psychotropic medication for weeks, months, or longer without parental consent or any other procedural safeguards. Several children were reportedly prescribed medications that increase suicidality, intentional self harm, pain, nausea, insomnia, and other symptoms in children. One of the children alleged they were assaulted by staff on multiple occasions, including with pepper spray, but that no disciplinary action was taken.

The class included all children in ORR custody (a) whom ORR refused to release to their parents or other available custodians who completed family reunification packets but are allegedly unfit, (b) who have been or will be in an RTC or other facility for more than 30 days without notice and an opportunity to be heard regarding release, (c) who have been or will be administered psychotropic medication without procedural safeguards (e.g., parental consent), and (d) who are natives of non-contiguous countries and to whom ORR blocks legal assistance in matters related to their custody, medication, and release.

On July 9, 2018, Judge Gee granted the plaintiffs leave to use pseudonyms for the named plaintiffs and their next friends (i.e., family members, custodians, or sponsors), who sued on their behalf, and ordered the parties to use these pseudonyms in all documents filed with the court. The court subsequently granted leave to both parties to file documents under seal in order to protect the identities of the minors.

On August 2, 2018, the plaintiffs moved to certify the class. On August 3, 2018, one named plaintiff detained in a southern Texas facility, moved for a preliminary injunction for his release from ORR custody “without unnecessary delay” as provided by the Flores Settlement and the TVPRA. On August 17, 2018, another named plaintiff detained in a southern Texas facility, similarly moved for a preliminary injunction for her release.

On August 17, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue and for failure to state a claim for which the court can grant relief. The defendants argued that this lawsuit was duplicative of the Flores litigation, and claimed that the plaintiffs were trying to rewrite or re-bargain that settlement by bringing this case.

On September 6 and 10, 2018, the court denied both preliminary injunction motions for lack of jurisdiction. In both cases, the court found that the cited sections of the Flores Settlement and the APA did not authorize the court to order the release of the minors. The motions were dismissed without prejudice, indicating that they could refile in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against the ORR Field Specialists in Texas responsible for the minors’ care. Judge McGee found that habeas matters would be properly venued before those specialists in that court if the plaintiffs were to refile.

On September 7, 2018, the plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint, which included two more named plaintiffs and additional detail concerning the original complaint's named plaintiffs’ mental health, including hospitalization due to their extreme distress at not being released to their families. It also described fundraising and other community efforts made in preparation of the children’s release.

On September 10, 2018, Judge Gee denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss as moot because the plaintiff’s amended complaint was treated as superseding the first. In the same order, she denied the plaintiff’s motion for class certification. Judge Gee reasoned that it would be more efficient to decide on that motion at a later date, because it was anticipated that the defendants would again move to have the case dismissed.

On September 18, 2018, the defendants again moved to have the complaint dismissed for improper venue and failure to state claim. On September 28, 2018, the defendants supplemented their motion to dismiss, requesting that the case be transferred to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia if it were not dismissed.

Also on September 28, 2018, the plaintiffs again moved to certify the class. This class definition’s first four elements were the same as those in their August motion for class certification; the new motion added one more element, narrowing the class to include only children who have or will have a behavioral, mental health, or intellectual and/or developmental disability and who are placed in an ORR facility because of that disability.

As of October 26, 2018, the court had not yet decided on the plaintiff’s September motion to certify the class or the defendants’ September motion to dismiss the case or, in the alternative, transfer the case to the District of Columbia.

The case is ongoing.

Veronica Portillo Heap - 10/28/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Freedom of speech/association
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
Hearing impairment
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Assault/abuse by staff
Conditions of confinement
Habeas Corpus
Juveniles
Over/Unlawful Detention
Pepper/OC spray
Placement in detention facilities
Placement in mental health facilities
Placement in shelters
Immigration/Border
Constitutional rights
Detention - conditions
Detention - criteria
Detention - procedures
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Bivens
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. § 1589
Defendant(s) Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Plaintiff Description Unaccompanied alien children detained in ORR custody and administered psychotropic drugs without parental consent whose parents or other custodians have completed a family reunification packet but who ORR claims are unfit.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law
Legal Services/Legal Aid
National Center for Youth Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing IM-CA-0002 : Flores v. Reno [later Meese, Johnson, Kelly, Sessions] (C.D. Cal.)
Additional Resources
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  Implementation of Executive Order 13768, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States
The Washington Post
Date: May 22, 2017
By: Jefferson Sessions (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Re: Implementing the President's Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies (Final, 2/20/2017)
dhs.gov
Date: Feb. 20, 2017
By: DHS Secretary John Kelly (United States Department of Homeland Security)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Re: Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest (Final, 2/20/2017)
dhs.gov
Date: Feb. 20, 2017
By: DHS Secretary John Kelly (United States Department of Homeland Security)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Executive Order 13767: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements
Federal Register
Date: Jan. 27, 2017
By: President Donald Trump (Office of the President)
Citation: 82 Fed. Reg. Presidential Documents 8793 (Jan. 27, 2017)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Executive Order 13768: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States
Federal Register
Date: Jan. 25, 2017
By: President Donald Trump (Office of the President)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
2:18-cv-5741 (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0124-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/02/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-CA-0124-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/29/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Proceedings: In Chambers - Order Re Plaintiff Lucas R.'s Motion for Preliminary Injunction [29] [ECF# 79] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0124-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/06/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 81]
IM-CA-0124-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/07/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Proceedings: In Chambers - Order Re Plaintiff Gabriela N.'s Motion for Preliminary Injunction [48] [ECF# 82] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0124-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/10/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Proceedings: In Chambers - Order Denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as Moot [51] and Denying Without Prejudice Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification [25] [ECF# 85] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0124-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/10/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Abrams, Paul L. (C.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
IM-CA-0124-9000
Gee, Dolly Maizie (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0124-0002 | IM-CA-0124-0004 | IM-CA-0124-0005 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adams, Crystal (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Cieslak, Jon F. (California)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Cooper, Holly S. (California)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Desai, Neha (Pennsylvania)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Donohue, Megan L. (California)
IM-CA-0124-9000
Holguín, Carlos R. (California)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Juneja, Poonam (California)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Kelley, Mary Kathryn (California)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Pitts, Freya E. K. (California)
IM-CA-0124-9000
Welch, Leecia (California)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
White, Carter C. (Texas)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Wynn, Summer J. (California)
IM-CA-0124-0001 | IM-CA-0124-0003 | IM-CA-0124-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Insenga, Andrew Brenner (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0124-9000
Moss, Benjamin M. (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0124-9000
Soanes, Sherry Denise (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0124-9000
Stevenson, Marina C. (District of Columbia)
IM-CA-0124-9000

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