University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Ms. J.P. v. Sessions IM-CA-0126
Docket / Court 2:18-cv-06081 ( 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 Public Counsel
Case Summary
On July 12, 2018, three mothers seeking asylum in the United States, filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of all those similarly situated nationwide. The plaintiffs sued the Attorney General of the United States, the ... read more >
On July 12, 2018, three mothers seeking asylum in the United States, filed this putative class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on behalf of all those similarly situated nationwide. The plaintiffs sued the Attorney General of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services, along with their respective agency heads, for allegedly violating the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. Each of the three named plaintiffs and the sought class had been separated from their minor children upon detention in the United States. The plaintiffs, represented by the Immigrant Advocacy and Litigation Center, the University of Southern California, and public counsel, sought an injunction requiring the defendants to provide mental-health screenings and appropriate trauma-informed remedial medical and mental-health services to those parents and children who were separated as a result of the government’s immigrant family separation policy. See “How Trump Came to Enforce a Practice of Separating Migrant Families.” Plaintiffs also sought attorney's fees.

Specifically, plaintiffs alleged the following:

Plaintiff Ms. P, along with her daughter, arrived in the United States on or around May 17, 2018 after fleeing a physically and sexually abusive relationship in her native Guatemala. Ms. P and her daughter were detained near the border and placed in a windowless room that lacked basic amenities alongside 150 other detainees. Here, Ms. P witnessed other children being forcibly taken from their parents, whose distress was mocked by the detention officers. On May 20, after several days in these conditions, Ms. P’s daughter was taken away, with no indication given as to when, or if, Ms. P would see her again. About two weeks later, Ms. P received notice of her daughter’s location. They were not permitted contact with one another until June 22, when they were able to speak via telephone. According to licensed clinical social workers familiar with Ms. P and her daughter, they are both showing signs of trauma, anxiety, and depression as a result of the ongoing separation. Ms. P has not received any mental health or counseling services from the government to address these concerns.

Plaintiff Ms. O, along with her daughter, arrived in the United States on or around May 17, 2018 after fleeing gang violence in her native Honduras. Upon crossing the border, Ms. O and her daughter flagged down a patrol car. They were then processed and detained separately at a nearby facility. Ms. O was placed in a holding cell that resembled a chain-link dog kennel with 50 other women and no basic amenities. Here, Ms. O witnessed other children being forcibly taken from their parents, who were taunted by the detention officers. On May 21, Ms. O, along with 50 other detainees, was taken to court where she plead guilty to criminal illegal entry though she did not understand the consequences. After the proceeding, Ms. O was transferred to another facility without her daughter. Ms. O did not learn of her daughter’s whereabouts until May 30. She and her daughter have spoken over the phone only three times for less than five minutes since being separated. Ms. O has not received any mental health or counseling services from the government to address her trauma.

Plaintiff Ms. M, along with her daughter, arrived in the United States on or around May 18, 2018 after fleeing domestic and gang violence in her native El Salvador. Upon crossing the border, Ms. M and her daughter flagged down a patrol car and were immediately taken to facility and separated for questioning. Ms. M was mocked by detention officers during this questioning. Ms. M was kept in a “cage” that lacked basic amenities with 40-50 other women. Food was scarce, and the guards would sometimes throw crackers on the floor of the cell and laugh as the hungry women scrambled to pick them up. From her cage, Ms. M could see her daughter crying in a separate cell. On May 21, Ms. M was taken to criminal proceedings with 50 other detainees where she believed she had to, and did, plead guilty though she did not understand the consequences. After these proceedings, Ms. M was transferred to another facility. She did not learn of her daughter’s location or condition until her mother, who is a permanent legal resident of the United States, provided her with this information on May 25. On June 22, Ms. M was able to speak with her daughter, who was crying uncontrollably, on the phone for about one minute. Ms. M was released on bond on July 12.

On July 12, the plaintiffs sought to have their lawsuit declared “related” to the 1985 Flores case that resulted in an important and long-lasting immigration settlement agreements. Judge Dolly M. Gee declined to transfer the case to Flores because this action sought affirmative relief separate and apart from the Flores Settlement Agreement and did not call for a determination of the same questions of law or fact.

On July 18, 2018, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction requiring defendants to provide meaningful access to mental health care screening and treatment to plaintiffs and other proposed class members. On July 27, 2018, the plaintiffs moved for class certification, proposing to define the class as all adult parents nationwide who (1) were, are, or will be detained in immigration custody by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), and (2) have a minor child who has been, is, or will be separated from them by DHS and detained in DHS or Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”) custody or foster care, absent a demonstration in a hearing that the parent is unfit or presents a danger to the child.

The court heard oral arguments in support of these motions during a hearing on September 20, 2018. Rulings on both the motion for class certification and the motion for a preliminary injunction are pending.

Natalie Treacy - 10/03/2018


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
Discrimination-basis
Immigration status
General
Conditions of confinement
Counseling
Family reunification
Juveniles
Placement in detention facilities
Sanitation / living conditions
Youth / Adult separation
Immigration/Border
Detention - conditions
Refugees
Undocumented immigrants - rights and duties
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Bivens
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Justice
Plaintiff Description Three immigrant mothers who were separated from their daughters upon detention at the U.S. border.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Public Counsel
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
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)
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General Documents
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