On September 22, 1998, seven legal permanent residents who were unable to pass English and Civics portions of the naturalization exam due to mental and physical disabilities filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, challenging the denial of their requests for medical waivers by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Plaintiffs contended that the INS engaged in a systematic practice of denying medical waivers (N-648 Requests for Medical Waiver) by second guessing the determination of medical professionals in violation of the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552, the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 553, 555(e), 701 et seq., and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief.
The same date the suit was filed, filed an emergency motion for a TRO and a preliminary injunction to prohibit INS from proceeding with naturalization examinations and interviews of two plaintiffs until after court ruled on matters raised in class action complaint. The District Court (Judge Alan S. Gold) granted the motion and entered a preliminary injunction. Campos v. INS 70 F.2d 1296, 1310 (S.D. Fla. 1998)
The INS moved to dismiss the case. On December 9, 1998, the District Court (Judge Gold) dismissed plaintiffs' substantive due process claim, but denied the motion with regard to all other claims. Campos v. INS 32 F.Supp. 2d 1337 (S.D. Fla. 1998)
Plaintiffs then moved for class certification, for summary judgment and for a permanent injunction. On February 24, 1999, the District Court granted the plaintiffs' motion to certify this case as a class action. The class was defined as" "All persons within the Miami District of the Immigration and Naturalization Service who have properly applied, or will apply in the future, for naturalization under 8 U.S.C. § 1445 who have also had pending at any time since March 19, 1997, a request for a waiver of either or both of the naturalization requirements that they demonstrate an understanding of the English language and that they demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government of the United States, because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment and whose request for waiver is now pending, will be filed in the future, or has been rejected by the INS, and excluding from the class anyone who has been naturalized." Campos v. I.N.S., 188 F.R.D. 656 (S.D.Fla.,1999).
Thereafter, the parties engaged in settlement talks which resulted in a resolution of the case. After conducting a fairness hearing on August 6, 1999, the District Court formally approved the settlement. Campos v. INS, 1999 WL 1044233 (S.D.Fla. Aug. 6, 1999). The Settlement Agreement called for the INS to issue a new "Policy Memorandum," entitled Section 312 Disability Naturalization Adjudications Policy Memorandum No. 47, which clarified that diseases or disabilities related to or caused by old age, like Alzheimer's and senile dementia, as well as depression, would be considered as disability exceptions. The Policy Memorandum created new procedures to notify people why their medical waivers had been denied. In addition to the policy changes, the INS agreed to reprocess the rejected medical waiver requests of class members.Erica Woodruff - 08/03/2007