On March 14, 1997, the National Immigration Law Center, the Lawyers Committee For Civil Rights of San Francisco Bay Area and cooperating counsel filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, challenging directives of Executive Office for Immigration Review officials which implemented the Section 309(c) (5) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).
When the IIRIRA took effect on April 1, 1997, it made aliens ineligible for suspension of deportation proceedings unless they had been continuously physically present in the United States for a period of seven (7) years at the time that they were served with the initial notice to appear for deportation proceedings. The IIRIRA also imposed a 4,000 person annual cap on the number of suspensions of deportation that could be granted. Thus, after April 1, 1997, some aliens who had satisfied the 7 year continuous physical presence requirement were no longer eligible for suspension of deportation because the time period was calculated differently. Also, because of the 4000 annual limit, many applicants would have qualified for deportation suspension prior to the April 1, 1997 law change, would be deported.
In anticipation of the IIRIRA taking effect, Immigration Review officials issued directives which prohibited immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals from granting suspension of deportation during the period between February 13 and April 1, 1997.) Plaintiffs challenged those directives and sought injunctive relief, as well as class certification.
Following a hearing on March 27, 1997, the District Court (Judge Claudia Wilken) provisionally certified a class of individuals who may have been ordered deported after being denied suspension based on IIRIRA section 309(c)(5) and entered a preliminary injunction which stayed the deportation of all class members.
After IIRIRA took effect on April 1, 1997, the government moved to vacate the preliminary injunction on the basis that the district court had lost subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the provisions of the IIRIRA. The motion to dismiss was denied and the defendants appealed. The District Court modified the preliminary injunction on September 17, 1997, over the objection of defendants. That order was also appealed.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Circuit Judge Thomas) affirmed. Barahona-Gomez v. Reno, 167 F.3d 1228 (9th Cir. 1999). The case was remanded for further proceedings and for reexamination in light of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act ("NACARA"), which was passed while the case was on appeal. The NACARA amended Section 309(c)(5) of the IIRIRA and created special rules regarding applications for suspension of deportation by certain citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador, and certain former Soviet countries.
After the appellate decision, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, 525 U.S. 471, 119 S.Ct. 936, 142 L.Ed.2d 940 (1999) [IM-CA-22] (examining the exclusive jurisdiction clause of IIRIRA). The Ninth Circuit requesting supplemental briefing from the parties to address what impact, if any, the Supreme Court decision had on the case. The Ninth Circuit issued a supplemental opinion, reaffirming the case and holding that that exclusive jurisdiction provision of IIRIRA did not deprive the district court of jurisdiction. Barahona-Gomez v. Reno, 236 F.3d 1115 (9th Cir. 2001).
After the appeals process, the parties engaged in settlement negotiations. A settlement was reached and was submitted to the Court for approval. Following notice to the class members and a fairness hearing, the District Court (Judge Wilken) approved the class action settlement by order dated December 12, 2002. Under the terms of the settlement, eligible class members who could have been granted suspension during the period between Feb. 13 and Apr. 1, 1997, before the IIRIRA took effect, were to be given the opportunity to apply for "renewed suspension" under the standards that existed prior to Apr. 1, 1997.Dan Dalton - 11/13/2007