United States v. Gustavo Carrillo-Lopez

United States v. Gustavo Carrillo-Lopez, No. 3:20-cr-00026-MMD-WGC (D. Nev., filed June 25, 2020)

On June 25, 2020, Gustavo Carrillo-Lopez was indicted on one count of being a deported noncitizen present in the United States in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a) and (b) (Section 1326). On October 19, 2020, Mr. Carrillo-Lopez moved to dismiss his indictment on the grounds that Section 1326 violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment under Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252 (1977). In his motion to dismiss, Mr. Carrillo-Lopez argued that because Section 1326 was enacted with a discriminatory purpose and has a disparate impact on Latinx persons, the law is unconstitutional; as such, the Court must dismiss the indictment.

In his briefing, Mr. Carrillo-Lopez presented extensive historical evidence about the racist origins of Section 1326, including how it was first enacted at the height of the eugenics movement and how the “Undesirable Aliens Act of 1929” was conceived, drafted, and enacted by white supremacists out of a belief that the “Mexican race” would destroy the racial purity of the United States and that Mexicans were “poisoning the American citizen.” Although the statute was recodified in 1952, Mr. Carrillo-Lopez argued that the 1952 reenactment did not cleanse Section 1326 of its racist origins and was likewise motivated by discriminatory intent. Moreover, he argued that Section 1326 disproportionally impacts Mexican and Latinx defendants, given that the overwhelming number of Border Patrol arrests along the southern border are of Mexicans or people of Latinx origin.

On January 22, 2021, the Court held oral argument on the motion to dismiss, and on February 2, 2021, the Court held an evidentiary hearing. At the evidentiary hearing, Mr. Carrillo-Lopez presented the testimony of two experts. Professor Kelly Lytle Hernandez, an expert on policing in immigration and criminalization of migration, testified extensively on the racist origins of the 1929 act and that “the illegal re-entry provision of the 1929 law was intended to target Latinos.” Professor Benjamin Gonzalez O’Brien, an expert on political science, immigration policy, race, and public policy, testified to the historical link between the 1929 and 1952 codifications. Following the evidentiary hearing, Mr. Carrillo-Lopez submitted a post-hearing brief outlining for the Court how the 1952 recodification of Section 1326 made illegal reentry penalties even harsher and expanded grounds for deportation, all with the knowledge of the law’s disparate impact and over a presidential veto calling out the bill’s racism. Mr. Carrillo-Lopez explained that the 1952 Congress did not reenact the illegal reentry provision despite its racist origins – it reenacted it because of them. In light of these facts, Mr. Carrillo-Lopez argued he had met his burden under the Arlington Heights test.

On August 18, 2021, the Court issued an order granting Mr. Carrillo-Lopez’s motion to dismiss, finding that because Section 1326 was enacted with a discriminatory purpose, the law has a disparate impact on Latinx persons, and that because the government failed to show that Section 1326 would have been enacted absent racial animus, Section 1326 violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment. As such, the Court ordered the United States to dismiss Mr. Carrillo-Lopez’s indictment and release him from federal custody. 

On August 19, 2021, the United States filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit.

Documents:

Counsel: Federal Public Defender of Nevada

Contact: Lauren Gorman, Assistant Federal Public Defender | Lauren_Gorman@fd.org

Texas and Missouri v. Biden

Texas & Missouri v. Biden, No. 2:21-cv-00067-Z (N.D. Tex., filed Apr. 13, 2021)

Within hours after President Biden’s inauguration, the Biden administration suspended new enrollments into the Trump administration’s Remain in Mexico program (also known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols” or “MPP”), which forcibly returned certain people seeking asylum at the southern U.S. border to Mexico, where they had to survive dangerous conditions during the pendency of their immigration proceedings in U.S. immigration courts. The program was notoriously a humanitarian disaster – as a result of the policy, people seeking asylum were murdered, raped, kidnapped, extorted, and compelled to live in squalid conditions. They also faced significant procedural barriers to meaningfully presenting their legal claims for protection.

On April 13, 2021, the states of Texas and Missouri (Plaintiffs) filed suit in the Northern District of Texas, arguing that the Biden administration’s January 2021 statement suspending new enrollments into MPP “functionally end[ed] the MPP” program and was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) given the “huge surge of Central American migrants, including thousands of unaccompanied minors, passing through Mexico in order to advance meritless asylum claims at the U.S. border.” Plaintiffs also argued that the Biden Administration’s decision to suspend MPP violated both the Constitution and an agreement between Texas and the federal government.

On May 14, 2021, Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction. However, before the briefing was complete, DHS issued a new memo on June 1, 2021 formally terminating MPP. The Court concluded that the June 1 memorandum mooted Plaintiffs’ original complaint (which had focused on the January 2021 pronouncement), but allowed Plaintiffs to amend their complaint and file a new motion seeking to enjoin the June 1 memo. Plaintiffs did so. On June 25, 2021, Defendants filed their response to Plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction motion, and Plaintiffs filed their reply on June 30, 2021.

On July 22, 2021, the Court held a consolidated hearing and bench trial on the merits, and the parties then filed supplemental briefs on the scope of relief available to Plaintiffs. On August 13, 2021, the Court issued an order concluding that Plaintiffs were entitled to relief on both their APA and statutory claims and issued a nationwide injunction permanently enjoining Defendants from implementing or enforcing the June 1 memo, vacating the June 1 memo in its entirety, and ordering Defendants “to enforce and implement MPP in good faith until such a time as it has been lawfully rescinded in compliance with the APA and until such a time as the federal government has sufficient detention capacity to detain all [noncitizens] subject to mandatory detention under Section 1255 without releasing any [noncitizens] because of a lack of detention resources.”

The Court’s reasoning was rooted in a mistaken understanding of 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(2)(A) and its determination that MPP “demonstrated operational effectiveness” — a finding based on Trump Administration statements and flawed data analysis and which ignored hundreds of pages of record evidence detailing the dangers MPP respondents had experienced in Mexico.

The Court stayed its order for seven days to allow the federal government time to seek emergency relief from the Fifth Circuit. On August 16, 2021, the Biden administration sought an additional stay from the District Court, which the District Court summarily denied two days later. The Biden administration then appealed to the Fifth Circuit. The American Immigration Council, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Human Rights First, and Southern Poverty Law Center, filed an amicus brief in support of the government, asking the Fifth Circuit to prevent the reinstatement of MPP and arguing that the District Court’s order rests on inaccurate facts about the purported effectiveness of MPP in deterring migration and reducing meritless asylum claims. The brief also explains the ways in which the MPP program has been a humanitarian catastrophe. The ACLU and ACLU of Texas filed a separate amicus brief in support of the government primarily focusing on the District Court’s misinterpretation of 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(2)(A).

On August 19, 2021, the Fifth Circuit denied the government’s request for a stay in a published decision that wholly adopted as true the Trump administration’s claims about the effectiveness of MPP in deterring migration and ignored the mountainous evidence refuting such claims. The decision, however, stated that the administration does not have to restart MPP at any particular time, just “in good faith” (without defining the term) and clarified that the government “can choose to detain” someone in accordance with § 1225, so long as the government does not “simply release every [noncitizen] described in § 1225 en masse into the United States.”

On August 20, 2021, the Biden administration filed an application to stay the District Court’s injunction and for an emergency administrative stay with the Supreme Court. That same day – just minutes before the injunction was to go into effect – Justice Alito granted an emergency stay of the injunction until 11:59 pm EDT on August 24, 2021, to allow the full Court to consider the application. On August 23, 2021, the ACLU and ACLU of Texas filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court in support of the stay application, again addressing the lower courts’ deeply flawed premise that the federal government must subject all people seeking asylum apprehended at the border to mandatory detention or return them to Mexico under MPP.

On August 24, 2021, the Supreme Court denied the government’s stay request in a 6-3 decision, stating that “[t]he applicants have failed to show a likelihood of success on the claim that the memorandum rescinding the Migrant Protection Protocols was not arbitrary and capricious.” The decision, however, did not endorse the states’ incorrect claims that the government is actually required to return people to Mexico under the immigration statutes. That same day, DHS issued a statement saying that the Department “respectfully disagrees with the district court’s decision,” have appealed that order, and “will continue to vigorously challenge it.” However, the Department stated that “[a]s the appeal process continues . . . DHS will comply with the order in good faith.”

Documents:

Counsel for Amicus: ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project; ACLU Foundation of Texas; American Immigration Council; Center for Gender & Refugee Studies; Human Rights First; Southern Poverty Law Center

National Immigration Litigation Alliance et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

National Immigration Litigation Alliance et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, No. 1:2021-cv-11094 (D. Mass., filed July 1, 2021)

Since 2019, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has engaged in the practice of expelling from the United States migrants who recently gave birth, along with their U.S. citizen infants, often without birth certificates. CBP has even expelled individuals from the United States who were in active labor. The National Immigration Litigation Alliance, Al Otro Lado, and the Haitian Bridge Alliance (Plaintiffs) submitted a FOIA request on March 18, 2021 to CBP seeking records relating to policies, guidance, or statistics regarding the treatment of pregnant people in CBP custody, people in CBP custody who have given birth within the United States within the last six months, U.S. citizen children in CBP custody who are under the age of six months, and non-U.S. citizen children of parents in CBP custody while their parent is giving birth at a U.S. hospital or other medical facility. Plaintiffs sought these records to better understand the scope and extent of CBP’s practice of expelling migrant parents and their infant children without considering the merits of their asylum applications.

When CBP failed to produce any responsive records or provide any other substantive response to the request, Plaintiffs filed suit on July 1, 2021.

Documents:

Counsel: Proskauer Rose LLP; National Immigration Litigation Alliance; Al Otro Lado; Haitian Bridge Alliance

Contact: Trina Realmuto, National Immigration Litigation Alliance | trina@immigrationlitigation.org

Additional Links:

Llamas et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection et al.

Llamas et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection et al., No. 6:2021-cv-01169 (M.D. Fla., filed July 18, 2021)

After the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, civil unrest and protests spread across the United States. In response to the protests, the federal government deployed officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the United States Marshals Service (USMS), among others, to different U.S. cities and engaged in aerial surveillance of those participating in the protests.

In January 2021, Noelle Llamas and Ken Klippenstein, respectively a college student and a reporter for The Intercept, submitted six FOIA requests to CBP, ICE, FBI, USMS, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking records related to emails sent from specific officials during the period of May 25, 2020 to August 15, 2020 in an attempt to learn more about the messaging related to each federal agency’s deployment of law enforcement officials during this period of time. In particular, the requests sought records concerning each agency’s internal messaging and responses to news media inquiries about the deployments.

Although the agencies acknowledged receipt of each request, Llamas and Klippenstein did not receive a final determination on any of them. On July 18, 2021, they filed suit against the agencies for the records sought in their FOIA requests.

Documents:

Counsel: Elizabeth E. Bourdon, B.C.S.

Contact: Elizabeth (Beth) Bourdon | bbourdon@me.com

Ortega, et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Ortega, et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, No. 1:21-cv-11250-FDS (D. Mass, filed Aug. 2, 2021)

On August 2, 2021, the Boston College Civil Rights Clinic and Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on behalf of Neisa Ortega and her 14-year-old daughter. On multiple occasions over the course of a year, Ms. Ortega and her daughter were separated for hours without explanation and Ms. Ortega subjected to repeated invasive body searches and sexual violations at the hands of CBP officers while travelling through Logan Airport in Boston.

The complaint alleges that CBP subjected Ms. Ortega to illegal and unconstitutional treatment upon her returns from family visits to the Dominican Republic. Beginning in April 2019, CBP officers assaulted, degraded, and humiliated Ms. Ortega on three separate occasions through invasive body cavity searches that contravened CBP’s internal guidelines prohibiting officers from conducting vaginal cavity searches. During these body cavity searches, CBP officers separated Ms. Ortega from her daughter for hours, during which time neither was given information as to the other’s whereabouts. Ms. Ortega and her daughter have been traumatized by their separation from each other, and Ms. Ortega still lives with the trauma of being physically abused and sexually violated. 

On November 5, 2020, Ms. Ortega filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL); CRCL summarily closed the complaint on March 30, 2021. On January 19, 2021, Ms. Ortega filed an administrative claim with CBP on behalf of herself and her daughter under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA); CBP likewise denied the claim in full on June 17, 2021. Having exhausted administrative remedies under the FTCA, Ms. Ortega filed this lawsuit claiming Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as compensatory relief pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) and the FTCA.

Documents:

Counsel: Boston College Civil Rights Clinic; Lawyers for Civil Rights

Contact: Arielle Sharma, Lawyers for Civil Rights | asharma@lawyersforcivilrights.org; Reena Parikh, Boston College Civil Rights Clinic | reena.parikh@bc.edu


Moore v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement

Moore v. U.S. Immigr. & Customs Enf’t, No. EP-19-CV-00279-DCG, (W.D. Tex., filed Oct. 1, 2019)

From June 2018 to March 2019, Plaintiff Robert Moore, a journalist, submitted five Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), seeking critical records related to border enforcement, fundamental shifts in the treatment of people seeking asylum, and operation of immigration detention facilities in El Paso. Among other requests, Mr. Moore asked that CBP release any and all directives, emails, text messages and other communications from CBP officials regarding the handling of people seeking asylum at ports of entry when port facilities are at “capacity.” He also requested information related to CBP’s use of a “field force demonstration” in a community next to the border on the day of mid-term elections in November 2018. When the three agencies failed to timely produce responsive records, Mr. Moore filed a lawsuit on October 1, 2019, to compel the agencies to conduct searches and produce responsive records.

On December 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. The Court stayed the motion and set a production schedule.

In a series of motions, the parties have litigated the speed at which CBP must review and produce responsive records, notwithstanding the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. On July 8, 2020, Plaintiff moved for the Court to lift the stay and to enter a finite production schedule. The Court allowed the stay to remain in place, in light of the global pandemic, but ordered a finite production schedule.  On November 19, 2020 (the day before the production deadline), at 4:56 p.m., CBP filed a motion for a new stay of proceedings pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6)(C) and Open America v. Watergate Special Prosecution Force, 547 F.2d 605 (D.C. Cir. 1976), and to extend the deadline under the finite production schedule.

On January 12, 2021, the Court denied CBP’s request for an Open America stay. The Court ordered Defendants to respond to Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, ordered the parties to confer regarding a revised finite production schedule, and ordered CBP to produce weekly status reports to the Court for the duration of the case. The Court explained that the weekly reports, accompanied by a declaration, “SHALL detail CBP’s progress and developments in processing both Plaintiff’s FOIA requests and track the specific number of files/records/documents and total amount of pages reviewed that week and how many are outstanding for each individual FOIA request. Any incomplete, late, or seemingly cloned (‘copied-and-pasted’) submissions SHALL not be deemed to comply with this Order.”

Counsel: Law Office of Lynn Coyle, PLLC

Contact: Christopher Benoit | chris@coylefirm.com | (915) 532-5544

Perez v. United States

Angel Mendivil Perez v. United States, et al., 4:21-cv-00051-JEM (D. Ariz., filed Feb. 4, 2021)

On February 7, 2019, Alex Mendivil Perez, a U.S. citizen who was then 21 years old, was shot in the head by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer while attempting to exit the U.S. into Mexico through the Nogales port of entry. At around 7 p.m. that day, Mr. Mendivil arrived at the border crossing driving a pickup truck with a passenger. CBP officers approached his truck, which had license plates registered to a different vehicle, and questioned him. During the questioning, Mr. Mendivil accelerated towards Mexico. As Mr. Mendivil drove away, an unknown CBP officer shot Mr. Mendivil in the head through the back window of his car. Though Mr. Mendivil was so gravely injured that he was believed dead at the scene of his shooting, he survived with permanent injuries, including brain damage.

In February 2021, Mr. Mendivil filed suit against the United States and the unknown CBP officer alleging claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act as well as violations of his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

Documents:

Counsel: Risner & Graham

Contact: William J. Risner & Kenneth K. Graham| bill@risnerandgraham.com | kk@risnerandgraham.com

Additional links:

• Dana Liebelson, A CBP Officer Shot a 21-Year-Old American in the Head. 6 Months Later, CBP Won’t Say Why, Huffington Post, Oct. 19, 2019.
• Ray Stern, A Tucson Man Shot by a Border Officer While Entering Mexico Has Filed a Lawsuit Against DHS, Phoenix New Times, Feb. 8, 2021.

No More Deaths v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection

No More Deaths, et al. v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 1:21-cv-00954 (S.D.N.Y., filed Feb. 3, 2021)

Every year hundreds – possibly thousands – of migrants die while crossing into the United States from Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol, within Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”), is responsible for most emergency aid requests for assistance in the desert, in part because local law enforcement agencies often refer 911 calls for emergency to Border Patrol when Spanish-speaking individuals call seeking help. Border Patrol’s role as an emergency services provider at the border is directly at odds with its role as an immigration enforcement agency.

Documentation by No More Deaths (“NMD”), a border aid organization, suggests that Border Patrol has often failed to carry out its search and rescue responsibilities: in 63% of all border distress calls referred to Border Patrol, the agency did not conduct any confirmed search or rescue mobilization. And when Border Patrol does initiate searches, they are significantly less effective when compared to searches for missing or lost U.S. citizens. Some Border Patrol searches last less than a day, or scarcely an hour. Documentation by local human rights organizations shows that in over 100 cases over a two-year period, Border Patrol agents actively interfered with family and humanitarian-organization led search efforts. In April 2019, NMD and the Center for Constitutional Rights (“CCR”) filed a FOIA request seeking information about CBP’s practices and policies relating to emergency services it claims to provide along the U.S.-Mexico border. In February 2021, after CBP failed to provide records for over 20 months, NMD and CCR filed a complaint seeking to compel an immediate, expedited search for and disclosure of requested records. The government filed its answer to the complaint in March 2021.

Documents:

Counsel: Center for Constitutional Rights

Contact: Angelo Guisado, Center for Constitutional Rights | aguisado@ccrjustice.org

Additional Links

Center for Democracy & Technology v. Department of Homeland Security

Center for Democracy & Technology v. Department of Homeland Security, et al., 1:2021-cv-134 (D.D.C., filed Jan. 15, 2021)

In 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a plan to implement “Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiatives,” which were designed to collect, analyze, and disseminate social media content. DHS has since significantly expanded its collection and monitoring of social media information, using that information to inform who may travel to, enter, and remain in the United States, as well as decisions about naturalization.

In August and September 2019, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) submitted a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requesting documents and training materials related to the collection and use of First Amendment protected activity on social media. On January 15, 2021, CDT filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking to compel DHS, CBP, and ICE to immediately process its FOIA requests and disclose all non-exempt documents to CDT.

Documents:

Counsel: Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP

Contact: David M. Gossett, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP | davidgossett@dwt.com

American Civil Liberties Union v. Department of Homeland Security

American Civil Liberties Union v. Department of Homeland Security, 1:20-cv-10083 (S.D.N.Y., filed Dec. 2, 2020).

Many modern cell phone applications routinely gather users’ location information and sell it to third parties, who then use it for marketing and other purposes. In February 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported that Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were purchasing location information from private companies and using it to locate and arrest noncitizens. One company, Venntel, appears to be selling access to a large database to DHS, CBP, and ICE. This raises serious concerns that CBP and ICE are evading Fourth Amendment protections by purchasing location information instead of obtaining warrants.

In February 2020, the ACLU filed Freedom of Information Act requests with DHS, CBP, and ICE seeking: (1) records of contracts, letters of commitments, and other agreements concerning government access to or receipt of cell phone location information; (2) all communications with or about Venntel Inc.; (3) policies, guidelines, memoranda, and trainings relating to government access and use of cell phone information purchased from commercial vendors; (4) formal legal analysis concerning access to commercial databases containing cell phone location information purchased from a commercial vendor; (5) records sufficient to show the volume of cell phone location data contained in commercial databases for which DHS, CBP, and ICE have purchased access; (6) records showing how many times each year DHS, CBP, and ICE employees or contractors have accessed such databases; and (7) records concerning the use of commercially purchased cell phone information in any court application, trial, hearing, or other proceeding.

On December 2, 2020, the ACLU filed a complaint seeking to compel CBP, ICE, and DHS to conduct adequate searches for the records they requested through FOIA.

Documents:

Counsel: ACLU Foundation Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project

Contact: Nathan Freed Wessler, ACLU Foundation | (212) 549-2500 | nwessler@aclu.org

Additional links:

• Brian Tau and Michelle Hackman, Federal Agencies Use Cellphone Location Data for Immigration Enforcement, The Wall Street Journal, Feb. 7, 2020.