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Case Name Barrera v. Wolf IM-TX-0053
Docket / Court 4:20-cv-01241 ( S.D. Tex. )
State/Territory Texas
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection COVID-19 (novel coronavirus)
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Case Summary
COVID-19 Summary: This is a habeas action filed by four immigrants held at the Montgomery Processing Center, seeking release in light of COVID-19. The plaintiffs alleged that they were particularly vulnerable to the virus due to their medical conditions. In April, the court issued a temporary ... read more >
COVID-19 Summary: This is a habeas action filed by four immigrants held at the Montgomery Processing Center, seeking release in light of COVID-19. The plaintiffs alleged that they were particularly vulnerable to the virus due to their medical conditions. In April, the court issued a temporary restraining order that provided for the release of one of the individual plaintiffs. In September, the court entered an order granting the plaintiffs' motion for individualized bail hearings. Three detainees were released in October. The defendants appealed in November. The case is ongoing.


On April 8, 2020, a group of four immigrants in detention filed this lawsuit against U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"), ICE officials, and the warden of the Montgomery Processing Center ("MPC"). Represented by the ACLU and private counsel, the petitioners sought writs of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Alternatively, they sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Specifically, the petitioners argued that by detaining them, the defendants were subjecting them to an unreasonable risk of contracting COVID-19 in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

The case was assigned to Judge Keith P. Ellison.

On April 10, the plaintiffs filed a motion for temporary restraining order.

On April 17, Judge Ellison entered an order granting in part and denying in part the plaintiffs' motion for a temporary restraining order. 455 F.Supp.3d 330. The government was required to release one plaintiff from detention because the plaintiff did not have a history of violence, so the danger to the plaintiff in detention outweighed the public interest in safety; the court issued this order as a preliminary injunction rather than a temporary restraining order. The court declined to order the release of another plaintiff due to his history of violence and violation of previous court protective orders. Ten days later that plaintiff was transferred to a different detention facility. (The two other individual plaintiffs had already been released.)

On April 29, the plaintiffs filed an amended class action complaint with four additionally plaintiffs with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of serious illness or death if they contracted COVID-19. Two of those plaintiffs were later released on May 1. The plaintiffs also filed a motion to certify the class. The proposed class consisted of "all individuals detained at MPC who have been diagnosed with or are receiving treatment for an enumerated list of medical conditions... and/or who are over the age of 50."

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on May 1 on the basis that the plaintiffs' claims were mooted after each was either transferred or released. On May 1 and 4, the plaintiffs moved to expedite discovery and to expedite relief. In the meantime, at least six detainees and five MPC staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.

On May 25, the court denied the defendants' motion to dismiss because the plaintiff that secured release through the April 17 preliminary injunction still had standing to amend the complaint since her claims had not been finally adjudicated. The court also ordered that plaintiffs submit supplemental information on the proposed class certification before the court rule on the other outstanding motions. 2020 WL 2617939.

Defendants filed another motion to dismiss the amended complaint on June 5. Plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order on June 7 which was denied as moot on June 23. Several detainees filed an emergency motion to intervene on July 30 which was granted on August 31. The court found that the intervenors met the requirements for permissive intervention, but not intervention as of right.

The intervenors filed a complaint, adopting the prior allegations and making additional allegations, and a motion for a temporary restraining order on September 4.

On September 10, the court denied defendants' motion to dismiss and on September 21, the court declined to grant provisional class certification, but granted in part plaintiffs' motion for expedited relief and outlined a process for the parties to proceed with individualized bail hearings for plaintiffs with high risk medical conditions that did not have violent and felonious criminal histories. 2020 WL 5646138. The court noted that by July 29, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among detainees at MPC was reported to be 206. By August 11, defendants reported zero active cases and deaths, but the court noted that it "lack[ed] confidence in these numbers." The court also noted that "the timeline of events at MPC demonstrates that, despite the measures [d]efendants allegedly implemented, the detention facility nonetheless experienced a significant outbreak of COVID-19 while those measures were already in place."

In October the court granted bail for three detainees and denied bail for one detainee. 2020 WL 6130717. On November 20, the defendants appealed the bail determinations and the court's September 21 order granting the plaintiffs' motion for individualized bail hearings.

The case is ongoing.

Caitlin Kierum - 05/09/2020
Chandler Hart-McGonigle - 11/27/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Bathing and hygiene
Conditions of confinement
Habeas Corpus
Sanitation / living conditions
Totality of conditions
Immigration/Border
Constitutional rights
Detention - conditions
Detention - criteria
Undocumented immigrants - rights and duties
Medical/Mental Health
COVID-19 Release Denied
COVID-19 Release Granted
COVID-19 Release Requested
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Special Case Type
Habeas
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Habeas Corpus, 28 U.S.C. §§ 2241-2253; 2254; 2255
Defendant(s) Immigration and Customs Enforcement
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description Four immigrants held at the Montgomery Processing Center. Proposed Class: "all individuals detained at MPC who have been diagnosed with or are receiving treatment for an enumerated list of medical conditions... and/or who are over the age of 50."
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
ACLU National Prison Project
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
None yet
Source of Relief Litigation
None yet
Filed 04/08/2020
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)
  Vazquez Barrera et al v. Wolf et al
https://www.aclutx.org/
Date: Apr. 8, 2020
By: ACLU of Texas
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
4:20-cv-01241 (S.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0053-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/25/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Verified Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-TX-0053-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum and Order [ECF# 41] (2020 WL 1904497) (S.D. Tex.)
IM-TX-0053-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 04/17/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Ellison, Keith P. (S.D. Tex.) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0002 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Buser-Clancy, Thomas Paul (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001
Cho, Eunice (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Choi, Erin (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Cruz, Bernardo Rafael (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Eidelman, Vera (New York) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Fathi, David Cyrus (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Garza, Rochelle M (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Genender, Paul R (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Huddleston, Kathryn Lynn (Arizona) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Jadwat, Omar C. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001
Kuhlik, Lauren (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Miller, Ron (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Saldivar, Edgar (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000
Segura, Andre (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Tan, Michael K. T. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Zafar, Noor (New York) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-0001 | IM-TX-0053-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Cravens, Annalisa L (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000
Hu, Daniel David (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000
Pineda, Christopher D. (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000
Other Lawyers Buergel, Susanna M. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000
Desai, Nimish Ramesh (California) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000
Johnson, Darren W. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000
Kimball-Stanley, David C. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000
Turkevich, Paul Stevens (Texas) show/hide docs
IM-TX-0053-9000

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