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Case Name O.M.G. v. Wolf IM-DC-0070
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-00786 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Case Summary
COVID-19 summary: This is a federal lawsuit in D.C. District Court in which noncitizen families detained by ICE in "Family Residential Centers" (FRCs) are seeking release to avoid COVID-19 infection. On March 30, District Judge James Boasberg ordered ICE to provide appropriate infection protocols ... read more >
COVID-19 summary: This is a federal lawsuit in D.C. District Court in which noncitizen families detained by ICE in "Family Residential Centers" (FRCs) are seeking release to avoid COVID-19 infection. On March 30, District Judge James Boasberg ordered ICE to provide appropriate infection protocols for the adults (a similar order from another case, Flores, applies to the children), to comply with CDC guidelines for congregate institutions, and to file a report regarding FRC capacity, implementation of the CDC guidelines, the number of detainees released, and videotape of the living conditions at the FRCs. The court denied the plaintiffs' later motion for a preliminary injunction demanding wholesale release of detainees on July 22. The case is ongoing.


On March 21, 2020, 37 families detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in three family residential centers (“FRC”) sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs were detained in three FRC's in Pennsylvania and Texas and represented by three public interest groups: ALDEA — the People’s Justice Center, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, and the Rapid Defense Network. The plaintiffs alleged that the conditions of their detention amidst the COVID-19 pandemic violated their Fifth Amendment constitutional rights, the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.) and, with regards to detained minors, the Flores Agreement. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorneys’ fees. With regards to the injunctive relief, the plaintiffs requested the court order the immediate release of all detainees in the FRC’s, the implementation of protocols designed to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, and the suspension of new detainments until the COVID-19 protocols have been implemented. The case was assigned to Judge James Boasberg.

The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants violated their Fifth Amendment rights by subjecting civil detainees to a substantial risk of serious harm from the COVID-19 virus. The COVID-19 coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets and can be transmitted when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The Center for Disease Control stated that it may be possible for someone to contract the virus if they touched a surface with the virus on it, then touched their own face. The plaintiffs alleged that the most effective means of prevention are improved hygiene and social distancing of at least six feet. FRC’s are congregate environments, where detainees eat, sleep, and play together in confined spaces that do not allow for the recommended “social distancing.” The FRC’s are cleaned by detainees provided with allegedly inadequate supplies, which the plaintiffs believe put detainees at increased risk of infection because FRC surfaces are used to prepare meals, take showers, and perform all other functions of daily life. The plaintiffs alleged that the congregate environment and inadequate hygiene procedures, combined with the daily turnover of FRC staff, make an outbreak imminent.

The plaintiffs also alleged that the defendants violated the Administrative Procedure Act by failing to implement policies and procedures to protect the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. They argued that the lack of policies constituted a final agency action, making it reviewable by a court.

Finally, the plaintiffs stated that the Flores Settlement Agreement required the defendants to safeguard and protect immigrant children in their custody by making facilities safe and sanitary, and releasing minors without unnecessary delay in order to ensure their safety. The plaintiffs alleged that the conditions of detention violated the rights of minors under the Flores Settlement Agreement. For more information on the Flores Settlement, see Flores v. Reno in the Clearinghouse.

Immediately, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and requested an emergency hearing. On March 30, Judge Boasberg granted in part and denied in part without prejudice the plaintiff's motion. Judge Boasberg ordered that the Government provide for the adults at the three Family Residential Centers the same protocols and procedures as ordered for the children there in Flores. The Government also must provide to FRC detainees CDC-compliant protocols and protections for congregate settings in civil-detention facilities. Additionally, Judge Boasberg ordered the Government to provide the Court with a report regarding the capacity of the three FRCs, the implementation of the CDC guidelines, and the number of detainees released, as well as a videotape of the living conditions at the FRCs.

Public health experts and the American Academy of Pediatrics submitted a brief in support of the petitioner's motion for a temporary restraining order. The brief detailed that the highly contagious nature of the disease made an outbreak "highly probable" even if the three FRCs adopted CDC-recommended preventative measures. The authors recommended releasing families with children to enable social distancing and mitigate the risk.

On April 13, the Court held a telephonic hearing with the parties. Judge Boasberg declined to grant immediate release of the immigrant families, finding that the government is "continuing to make substantial progress" to ensure that detainees are not infected. Judge Boasberg pointed to the installation of hand washing stations installed at some FRCs, and his belief that the FRCs are in compliance and CDC guidance for congregate settings. For the next hearing, Judge Boasberg ordered the defendant to file a notice detailing the statistics on detainees and releases in the three FRCs, ICE's compliance with CDC guidelines, and its response plan, including testing capabilities and PPE supplies.

Judge Boasberg again declined to grant immediate release of detainees in a telephonic hearing held on April 27. He extended some conditions from the Flores Agreement to adults, but stopped short of requiring the government to explain why an adult has been in detention for more than 20 days. Judge Boasberg stated his continued belief that conditions are improving at the FRCs, and noted that the three centers are at least 16% under capacity.

On May 20, Judge Boasberg held a telephonic conference in which the plaintiffs argued that any improvements by a reduced population were undermined by the government's closure of parts of the facilities, thereby pushing the remaining detainees closer together. The plaintiffs argued that extended detention in these conditions amounted to a Fifth Amendment due process violation. Judge Boasberg, though, rebuffed the proposition, stating that he did not have the authority to order the immediate release of all detainees based on the conditions alleged.

On May 26, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss all counts of the complaint and a motion in opposition to the temporary restraining order.

On June 25, the court ordered defendants to notify the court and plaintiffs of any positive tests of staff or detainees. Numerous new positive cases were noted between June and November.

On July 2, plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction arguing that the measures put in place by defendants as a result of the March 30 temporary restraining order were insufficient. The motion was denied on July 22 because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that "nothing short of wholesale release - the only remedy Petitioners seek at this time - [could] redress their injuries." On July 17, defendants had filed a notice of an order in Flores v. Barr, 2020 WL 3488040, which was a decision issued pursuant to the Flores Settlement which had ordered the release of detainees, but only minors detained at an FRC, not adults, which meant that the plaintiffs' demands only applied to adult detainees.

The case is ongoing.

Justin Hill - 05/30/2020
Chandler Hart-McGonigle - 11/22/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Emoluments Clauses
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Reporting
Required disclosure
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Placement in detention facilities
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Immigration/Border
Detention - conditions
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Mitigation Granted
COVID-19 Mitigation Requested
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Requested
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Mandamus, 28 U.S.C. § 1361
Defendant(s) Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
U.S. Attorney General
Plaintiff Description 37 families detained at ICE family residential centers.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
None yet
Source of Relief Litigation
None yet
Filed 03/21/2020
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)
  O.M.G. v. Wolf — Release the Families
Date: Mar. 22, 2020
By: RAICES
Citation: RAICES
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:20-cv-00786 (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0070-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/20/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Exhibits to Complaint (except Exhibit 19) [ECF# 1-1 to 1-21 (except 1-18)]
IM-DC-0070-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/20/2020
Flores Settlement (Exhibit to Complaint) [ECF# 1-18]
IM-DC-0070-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/20/2020
Emergency Verified Petition for a Writ of Mandamus and Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-DC-0070-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/21/2020
Brief of Amici Curiae Public Health Experts and American Academy of Pediatrics in Support of Petitioners' Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order
IM-DC-0070-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 03/30/2020
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 98] (2020 WL 4201635) (D.D.C.)
IM-DC-0070-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 07/22/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Boasberg, James Emanuel (FISC, D.D.C.) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0005 | IM-DC-0070-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Argueta, Sylvia (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0003
Boswell, Susan G. (Arizona) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0003
Bussiere, Alice (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0003
Copeland, Gregory Paul (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0001 | IM-DC-0070-0002 | IM-DC-0070-9000
Doebbler, Curtis FJ (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0001 | IM-DC-0070-9000
Doukas, Maria (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-9000
Fowler, Karon Nicole (Illinois) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-9000
Gillman, Sarah Telo (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0001 | IM-DC-0070-9000
Govindaiah, Manoj (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0001 | IM-DC-0070-9000
Holguín, Carlos R. (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0003
Kline, Jacquelyn M. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0001
Maldonado, Amy (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0001 | IM-DC-0070-0002 | IM-DC-0070-9000
Manning, Susan Baker (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Morales, James (California) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0003
Murthy, Sanjay Krishna (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Rosenbaum, Mark Dale (California) show/hide docs
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Schey, Peter A. (California) show/hide docs
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Sikora, Michael (Illinois) show/hide docs
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Willis, Jeffrey (Arizona) show/hide docs
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Defendant's Lawyers Candaux, Mary Jane (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0003
Hausman, Allen W. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Johnson, Michael (California) show/hide docs
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Molina, Vanessa (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Strathern, Arthur (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Van Horn, Daniel F (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
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Other Lawyers Hart, Christopher (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0004 | IM-DC-0070-9000
Kysel, Ian Matthew (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0004 | IM-DC-0070-9000
London, Andrew M. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0004
Lyon, Beth (New York) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0004
Mirenda, Anthony (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0004
Renzler, Nicholas Marcus (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0004 | IM-DC-0070-9000
Stich, Stephen (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0004
Thomas, Chantal (New York) show/hide docs
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Torres, Gerald (Connecticut) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0070-0004

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