University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
view search results
page permalink
Case Name Grace v. Sessions IM-DC-0054
Docket / Court 1:18-cv-01853 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection Civil Rights Challenges to Trump Immigration Enforcement Orders
Take Care
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
This case is a response to the Attorney General's decision in Matter of A-B-, issued in June 2018, and updated guidelines for asylum officers the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a month later, instructing them to apply Matter of A-B-'s holding to credible fear screenings ... read more >
This case is a response to the Attorney General's decision in Matter of A-B-, issued in June 2018, and updated guidelines for asylum officers the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a month later, instructing them to apply Matter of A-B-'s holding to credible fear screenings.

On August 7, 2018, this suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by asylum applicants plaintiffs all ordered removed following the rejection of their asylum claims at the credible fear assessment stage. They alleged that the Attorney General's decision in Matter of A-B- articulated new, unlawful standards for adjudicating asylum claims relating to domestic and gang violence. The defendants were the Attorney General, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). The plaintiffs filed these claims under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and the Refugee Act of 1980. Represented by the ACLU and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, the plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as attorneys' fees and costs. They claimed that the defendants unlawfully implemented this new screening standard for asylum seekers in expedited removal proceedings, effectively depriving all applicants of their right to pursue asylum. The case was assigned to Judge Emmet Sullivan.

The plaintiffs claimed that as a result of these new policies most credible fear claims connected to domestic or gang violence were categorically denied; applicants were required to show that their home government "condones or is completely helpless" to protect them from feared persecution (as opposed to the prior "unable or unwilling" standard). This placed a higher burden on individuals seeking asylum based on membership in a particular social group. Moreover, asylum adjudicators were instructed to ignore any federal court of appeals decisions that conflicted with these new credible fear policies.

On August 8, 2018, the plaintiffs filed for a preliminary injunction and an emergency motion for stay of removal because two of the plaintiffs were subject to imminent removal. At an emergency hearing on August 8, the defendants agreed that the two plaintiffs would not be removed prior to 11:59 pm on August 9. However, following a hearing on the motions on the morning of August 9, the court learned that the two plaintiffs had in fact been removed from detention and placed on a flight to El Salvador during the hearing. The Court issued an oral order requiring the defendants to return the two plaintiffs to the U.S. as soon as possible.

On August 9, 2018, the court also granted a temporary stay of removal for all the plaintiffs pending the Court's determination of whether it had jurisdiction to enter a stay of removal in the case. 2018 WL 3812445.

On September 12 the defendants filed for summary judgment, claiming that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the plaintiffs' claims, and furthermore, that all of the plaintiffs' claims failed as a matter of law. The plaintiffs filed a cross motion for summary judgment on September 26, alleging that their claims were justiciable and that they were entitled to summary judgment on the merits.

Four parties filed amicus briefs in support of the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on October 2 and 3, 2018. The amici were filed by Tahrih Justice Center; a group of 10 law professors specializing in administrative law; the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington; and the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees.

The District Court heard arguments on the cross motions on November 19, 2018. Judge Sullivan partially granted and partially denied the motions for summary judgment in a December 19, 2018 opinion. He found several parts of the DHS's policies and rules based off of Matter of A-B- to be in violation of the APA's arbitrary and capricious standard:
the general rule against credible fear claims relating to domestic and gang violence. . . the requirement that a noncitizen whose credible fear claim involves non-governmental persecutors “show the government condoned the private actions or at least demonstrated a complete helplessness to protect the victim”. . . the Policy Memorandum’s rule that domestic violence based particular social group definitions that include “inability to leave” a relationship are impermissibly circular. . . the Policy Memorandum’s requirement that, during the credible fear stage, individuals claiming credible fear must delineate or identify any particular social group in order to satisfy credible fear based on the particular social group protected ground. . . the Policy Memorandum’s directive that asylum officers conducting credible fear interviews should apply federal circuit court case law only “to the extent that those cases are not inconsistent with Matter of A-B-”. . . [and] the Policy Memorandum’s directive that asylum officers conducting credible fear interviews should apply only the case law of “the circuit where the alien is physically located during the credible fear interview.”
He vacated all of these policies and permanently enjoined the defendants from using them going forward. In addition, he ordered the defendants to bring back any plaintiffs who had been removed from the United States under the now-enjoined policies and to give them a new creditable fear evaluation. He granted the defendant's summary judgment motion with respect to due process and nexus and discretion claims. 344 F.Supp.3d 96.

The defendants appealed the summary judgment decision to the D.C. Court of Appeals on January 17, 2019. They also filed a motion to stay district court proceedings, but Judge Sullivan denied the motion on January 25; this left the injunction in place and forced the defendants to continue reporting on compliance with the injunction during the appeal. 2019 WL 329572.

The appellate court has not ruled on the defendant's appeal as of June 2020. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the state attorneys general from the district court amicus briefs, among others, filed amici for the appeal as well.

Sam Kulhanek - 11/29/2018
Ellen Aldin - 06/12/2020


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Federalism (including 10th Amendment)
Content of Injunction
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Reporting
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Juveniles
Immigration/Border
Asylum - criteria
Asylum - procedure
Constitutional rights
Convention against Torture
Deportation - criteria
Deportation - judicial review
Deportation - procedure
Refugees
National Origin/Ethnicity
Hispanic
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Defendant(s) US Citizenship and Immigration Services
US Department of Homeland Security
US Department of Justice
US Executive Office for Immigration Review
Plaintiff Description A group of adults and children who sought and were denied asylum in the U.S. at the credible fear stage during expedited removal proceedings.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 08/07/2018
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Grace v. Barr
Date: Jan. 10, 2019
(American Civil Liberties Union)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  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)
1:18-cv-1853 (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0054-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-DC-0054-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/07/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 22] (2018 WL 3812445) (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0054-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/09/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of the Tahirih Justice Center, et al. as Amici Curiae in Support of Plaintiffs' Opposition and Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 80]
IM-DC-0054-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/02/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of Administrative Law Professors as Amici Curiae in Support of Plaintiffs [ECF# 81]
IM-DC-0054-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/02/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief for the District of Columbia and the States of California, Colorado, [...] and Washington as Amici Curiae in Support of the Plaintiffs [ECF# 82]
IM-DC-0054-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/02/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as Amicus Curiae of Plaintiffs' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 84]
IM-DC-0054-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/03/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 105] (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0054-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 106] (344 F.Supp.3d 96) (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0054-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/19/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 124] (2019 WL 329572) (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0054-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 01/25/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief of Amicus Curiae United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Support of Plaintiffs-Appellees [Ct. of App. ECF# 41]
IM-DC-0054-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/31/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Brief for the District of Columbia and the States of California, Colorado, [...] and Washington as Amici Curiae in Support of Appellees [Ct. of App. ECF# 46]
IM-DC-0054-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/01/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Sullivan, Emmet G. (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0001 | IM-DC-0054-0007 | IM-DC-0054-0008 | IM-DC-0054-0009 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Clancy, Thomas P. (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Dutton, Anne Kathleen Scholten (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Eiland, Katrina L. (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Jadwat, Omar C. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Lapidus, Lenora M. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Lee, Eunice (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Michelman, Scott (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Musalo, Karen (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Newell, Jennifer Chang (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Park, Sandra S. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Perez, Celso Javier (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Rabinovitz, Judy (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Roth, Emma Jane (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-9000
Segura, Andre (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Wofsy, Cody H. (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0002 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Darrow, Joseph A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-9000
Greer, Christina P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-9000
Press, Joshua S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-9000
Reuveni, Erez (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-9000
Other Lawyers Alikhan, Loren L. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Balderas, Hector (New Mexico) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Becerra, Xavier (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Carpenter, Julie (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0003
Connors, Clare E. (Hawaii) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Denn, Matthew P. (Delaware) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Donovan, Thomas J. Jr. (Vermont) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Ellison, Keith (Minnesota) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Farmer, Alice (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0010
Ferguson, Robert W. (Washington) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Ford, Aaron D. (Nevada) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Frey, Aaron M (Maine) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Frosh, Brian E. (Maryland) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Grewal, Gurbir S. (New Jersey) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Gupta, Anjum (New Jersey) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-9000
Healey, Maura T. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Herring, Mark R. (Virginia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Ho, Derek Tam (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0004 | IM-DC-0054-9000
James, Letitia (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Jennings, Kathleen (Delaware) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Jepsen, George (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Kasner, Alexander J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0010
Kilmartin, Peter F. (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Levine, Philip J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0003
Litos, Stephanie E. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Madigan, Lisa (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Majumdar, Irina M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
May, Rachel Proctor (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0004
Miller, Thomas J. (Iowa) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Mills, Janet T. (Maine) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Neronha, Peter F. (Rhode Island) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Nessel, Dana M. (Michigan) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Preston, Lewis T. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Racine, Karl A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Ragland, Thomas K. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-9000
Raoul, Kwame (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Reyes, Ana C. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0006 | IM-DC-0054-0010 | IM-DC-0054-9000
Rosenblum, Ellen F. (Oregon) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Sarma, Christopher M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0004
Shapiro, Joshua D. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Speyer, Joseph (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0003
Suzuki, Russell A. (Hawaii) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Swanson, Lori (Minnesota) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Thompson, Paul Michael (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-9000
Thompson, Paul Michael (Virginia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0003
Tong, William (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Underwood, Barbara D. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005
Van Zile, Caroline S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0005 | IM-DC-0054-0011
Wang, Xiao (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0006
Weiser, Philip J. (Colorado) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0011
Yuan, Youlin (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0054-0006

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
view search results
page permalink

- top of page -