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Case Name Freedom for Immigrants v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security IM-CA-0155
Docket / Court 2:19-cv-10424 ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
On December 10, 2019, Freedom for Immigrants, a nonprofit organization that supports persons held in immigration detention facilities, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the U.S ... read more >
On December 10, 2019, Freedom for Immigrants, a nonprofit organization that supports persons held in immigration detention facilities, filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), its acting director in his official capacity, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and its acting director and acting deputy director in their official capacities, alleging First Amendment violations. The plaintiff alleged that the defendants' shutdown of plaintiff's National Immigration Detention Hotline (the “Hotline”) was a retaliatory measure for engaging in protected speech with persons in immigration detention and bringing attention to detention facility conditions, in violation of plaintiff's First Amendment rights. The plaintiff further asserted that the shutdown of the Hotline prohibited persons in immigration detention from contacting plaintiff to report abuse or find resources unless they paid "exorbitant" fees to make a call, violating the detainee's First Amendment rights.

In 2013, plaintiff created the free and confidential Hotline for persons in immigration detention to allow detainees to "report abuse, find resources, and bridge the divide between detained persons and their family and loved ones." Plaintiff stated that it received 600-14,000 calls from around the country per month via the Hotline, allowing plaintiff "to draw attention to the physical and verbal abuse of detained persons, as well as ICE’s failure to ensure the provision of necessary medical treatments." The Hotline was prominently featured on Orange is the New Black, a show about life in U.S. prisons and immigration detention. The Hotline's feature brought national prominence to the plaintiff after the show's season premiere during July 2019, giving plaintiff a platform to speak about poor conditions and abuse occurring in immigration detention facilities.

The plaintiff asserted that within two weeks of the show's season premiere the plaintiff stopped receiving calls on the Hotline. According to the plaintiff, the defendants explained that the Hotline was removed from defendants' system because the plaintiff was not an approved organization. In an article in The Washington Post, a spokesperson for the defendants stated that the Hotline had been terminated because the “'group engaged in prohibited conduct' by permitting three-way calls and call forwarding." The plaintiff claimed that this statement was made without detailing the specific rules that were allegedly violated or providing any evidence of violations. The plaintiff also claimed that this interference was part of a broader trend of defendants' retaliatory measures against the plaintiff.

In the absence of the Hotline, plaintiff asserted that it has been forced to incur additional expenses to continue its mission. Plaintiff had to create new phone lines, which are no longer confidential, and deposit money into these accounts to allow immigrant detainees to continue to contact plaintiff at no cost.

Plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction on the same day that the complaint was filed. The plaintiff sought an order to enjoin the defendants from further interference with the Hotline, to restore operation of the Hotline at all facilities operated by defendants, and to restrain the defendants from further retaliatory measures. The plaintiff asserted that a preliminary injunction was appropriate because it was likely to succeed on the merits and because absent an injunction, plaintiff's and immigration detainees' First Amendment rights would continue to be violated.

On December 11, 2019, District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. was assigned to this case.

On January 8, 2020, defendants filed an opposition to the motion for preliminary injunction. Defendants asserted that the plaintiff was an "unapproved non-profit organization" that took over an unmonitored extension phone number to facilitate phone calls with immigrant detainees. Defendants also claimed that plaintiff lacked standing because the Hotline number was not under plaintiff's control and plaintiff had other means of continuing its mission and activities. Finally, defendants argued that its conduct did not violate the plaintiff's First Amendment rights and that plaintiff cannot prove necessary causation to show that defendants' conduct was retaliatory.

On February 11, 2020, Judge Birotte issued an order granting the plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunction. Judge Birotte found that plaintiff established a likelihood of success on the merits of its claim that defendants retaliated against plaintiff for its exercise of First Amendment rights. Judge Birotte also concluded that the four-month period between the shutdown of the Hotline and the filing of the suit, during which the plaintiff was likely deprived of its First Amendment rights, is sufficient to satisfy the irreparable harm requirement for preliminary injunctive relief. Judge Birotte ordered that the defendants are enjoined from further interference with the Hotline and that the Hotline must be restored in all detention facilities operated by defendants until final judgment in this matter is rendered.

The case is ongoing.

Aaron Gurley - 02/15/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
General
Pattern or Practice
Immigration/Border
Detention - conditions
Immigration lawyers
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Plaintiff Description A nonprofit organization dedicated to helping detainees in immigration detention facilities.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2020 - n/a
Filed 12/10/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
2:19−cv−10424−AB−GJS (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0155-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-CA-0155-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/10/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 29] (C.D. Cal.)
IM-CA-0155-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/11/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Birotte, Andre Jr. (C.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0155-0002
Plaintiff's Lawyers Artmann, Ashley Marie (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0155-0001 | IM-CA-0155-9000
Kaba, Moez (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0155-0001 | IM-CA-0155-9000
Trehan, Rajan S (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0155-0001 | IM-CA-0155-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Barnard, Ozlem B (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0155-9000
Dichter, Anna (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0155-9000
Osinoff, Joanne S (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0155-9000
Robins, Jeffrey S (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0155-9000

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