Clark v. Wolf

Clark v. Wolf, No. 3:20-cv-1436 (D. Or., filed Aug. 24, 2020)

In July 2020, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers—in concert with other federal and local law enforcement officers—used violent crowd control devices on nonviolent protestors during ongoing Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon. This included the use of tear gas, pepper-spray balls, rubber bullets, and flashbangs, which disoriented and injured many protestors.

Four individuals who had participated in the protests brought a putative class action against federal law enforcement officers, seeking damages under Bivens for the physical and mental harms they had suffered from the defendants’ actions. Additionally, the plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the use of tear gas on peaceful protestors violates the First Amendment.

On February 3, 2022, the district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ damages claims on the basis that special factors counseled against the extending of Bivens to the context of plaintiffs’ claims. A rule 54(b) judgment issued, which plaintiffs appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

On June 27, 2022, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case and the pending appeal.

Documents:

Counsel: Pickett Dummigan McCall LLP | Elliot & Park PC | Sugerman Law Office | Harmon Johnson LLC | Chase Law PC | People’s Law Project | Piucci Law | Michelle R. Burrows PC

Johnson v. United States of America

Carey Johnson v. United States of America, No. 18-cv-2178 (S.D. Cal., filed Sept. 20, 2018)

Carey Johnson is a U.S. citizen and military veteran who resides in Mexico. Johnson has a disability and carries a Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) identification card with a disability designation. He frequently crosses the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego to receive treatment at VA facilities.  On September 22, 2016, Johnson approached Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Otay Mesa SENTRI gate and requested that he be allowed to use the SENTRI gate for expedited crossing as an accommodation for his disability. CBP denied his request, and officers told him he would need to request accommodations each time he crossed the border. After this encounter, the CBP officer wrote up a report that led to Johnson being repeatedly stopped and harassed on several future crossings.

During Johnson’s following border crossings, he attempted to request accommodations to expedite his border crossing. CBP officers repeatedly abused him. On one occasion, CBP officers impounded his car and shackled him to a bench for 3 hours. On another, officers dragged him from his car and tasered him. CBP agents seized his car on at least two occasions, allegedly based on SENTRI lane violations. CBP officers refused to return the car unless Johnson paid a $10,000 fine, which he was unable to afford.

Johnson eventually sued to seek redress for the repeated abuses he suffered. He sought damages under Bivens, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act,the Federal Tort Claims Act, and California’s Bane Act. On July 14, 2020, the district court dismissed Johnson’s Bivens claims against the individual CBP officers. On January 25, 2021, the court granted Defendant United States’ motion for summary judgment on the Rehabilitation Act and Bane Act claims.

The case settled and was dismissed pursuant to a joint motion on March 26, 2021.

Documents:

Counsel: Robbins & Curtin, P.L.L.C.
Contact: Joel Robbins | joel@robbinsandcurtin.com

Reyes v. United States, DOE CBP Officers 1-30

Reyes v. United States, DOE CBP Officers 1-30, No. 3:20-cv-01752 (S.D. Cal., filed Sept. 8, 2020)

On August 2, 2018, Marco Reyes was waiting in his car to cross into the United States at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in California. Due to an incident in another vehicle lane, a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer knocked at Reyes’ car window and asked him to step out of the car. Reyes, who suffered from significant hearing loss from military service, did not immediately hear the officer or comply with his commands. When Reyes realized the officer was speaking to him, he immediately got out of the car and stood behind his vehicle. The CBP officer then began to yell profanities at Reyes and bumped him with his chest, accusing him of not immediately following directions. When Reyes raised his hand to keep the officer from bumping into him, the officer accused him of assault and called for back-up assistance. A larger group of CBP officers arrived, pushed Reyes to the ground, and proceeded to beat him up while he was on the ground, injuring his shoulder and arm and breaking several ribs. After beating Reyes up, the officers arrested him for assault on a federal officer. The U.S. Attorney’s office declined to pursue prosecution of Reyes.

On September 8, 2020, Reyes filed this action, alleging violations of his rights under California’s Bane Act, the federal Rehabilitation Act, and the Federal Tort Claims Act. On February 16, 2021, the district court dismissed Reyes’ Bane Act claims and Rehabilitation Act claims without prejudice and with leave to file an amended complaint. The court also dismissed on consent the FTCA claims against the individual CBP officers.

Reyes proceeded to file two amended complaints. The case settled and was dismissed pursuant to a joint motion to dismiss on January 11, 2022.

Documents:

Counsel: McKenzie Scott, P.C.
Contact: Timothy Scott | tscott@mckenziescott.com

Bouey v. United States of America

Bouey v. United States of America et al., No. 3:22-cv-00442 (S.D. Cal., filed April 4, 2022)

On July 16, 2020, Janine Bouey, a U.S. citizen, visited Tijuana, Mexico for the day for a dental appointment. When she attempted to return to the United States via the pedestrian lanes at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry (OMPOE), a CBP officer pulled her out of line. The CBP officer approached her, flirted with her, and ask her questions about both her trip to Mexico and her personal life. When Ms. Bouey refused to answer the questions about her personal life, the CBP officer retaliated by taking Ms. Bouey to the main building at the OMPOE.

Inside the OMPOE building, CBP performed multiple harmful and invasive searches of Ms. Bouey. On multiple occasions an officer fondled and penetrated Ms. Bouey’s genitalia without her consent and without justification. She was handcuffed to a bench, asked to strip down naked, and then ordered to bend over as an officer shined a flashlight into the areas of her genitalia. CBP officers also used a canine agent to invasively smell several of Ms. Bouey’s orifices. CBP officers never explained the reason for these searches, denied Ms. Bouey’s repeated requests to call an attorney, and failed to acknowledge her U.S. citizenship. The mistreatment by CBP caused Ms. Bouey physical pain and emotional distress, including anxiety, shock, humiliation, apprehension, and anguish. In response, on April 4, 2022, Ms. Bouey filed suit seeking damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Bivens. The FTCA claims included: (1) negligence, (2) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (3) battery, and (4) violation of the Bane Act. The Bivens claim sought a remedy for violation of her Fourth Amendment rights. On June 3, 2022, counsel for the U.S. government filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied on July 14, 2022, though the court did grant the government’s request to strike the demand for attorneys’ fees. Defendant United States then filed an answer to the complaint on July 28, 2022.

Counsel: Joseph M. McMullen | joe@imm-legal.com
Contact: Kendall Martin | kendall@alliancesd.org | (619) 629-0337

Press:
● Abuse, Assault and Impunity at DHS Must Stop: Former LAPD Officer Subjected to Sexual Assault by DHS Sues the Agency

Estrada v. United States, No. 3:22-cv-00373-AJB-BGS (S.D. Cal., filed Mar. 21, 2022)

On May 14, 2021, in Campo, California, a Border Patrol agent attempted to stop a vehicle suspected of being involved in migrant smuggling. The driver of the vehicle, Silvestre Estrada Vargas, who was accompanied by two other individuals, failed to yield before eventually stopping in a gas station parking lot. Without any legal justification or threat to their safety, an unknown number of Border Patrol agents then began shooting at the vehicle. Mr. Estrada, who was unarmed and had one hand on the steering wheel and another holding a cell phone up to his ear, was struck by an unknown number of bullets. He was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Luckily, the other two occupants of the vehicle, despite being directly in the line of fire, were uninjured.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, and CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility had all responded to the scene and began an investigation. However, when Plaintiffs’ investigator spoke to the gas station manager, the manager said that one of the responding agencies had already seized a videotape from the gas station surveillance system and had been advised not to speak to anyone about the incident.

Mr. Estrada’s minor son and mother, as well as the two other vehicle occupants, Francisco Madariaga and Jaime Madariaga-Gonzalez, filed this suit on March 21, 2022, pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents alleging wrongful death, excessive use of force, assault and battery, and negligence. On June 27, 2022, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, which Defendant United States answered on July 13, 2022.

Counsel: Keith Rutman Law

Contact:
Keith Rutman | krutmanlaw.com

Press:
Border Patrol Sued Over San Diego Man’s Shooting Death in Campo

Haitian Bridge Alliance, et al. v. Biden, et al., No. 1:21-cv-03317 (D.D.C., filed Dec. 20, 2021)

Mirard Joseph is a Haitian man who was whipped by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while attempting to bring food to his family in a Texas migrant encampment. Mr. Joseph alleges his wife received only bread and water and a single diaper for their infant daughter each day—conditions that eventually drove him and others to leave the Del Rio encampment and return to Mexico to buy food. When they attempted to reenter the camp with their purchases, they were met by Border Patrol officers who grabbed Mr. Joseph’s shirt, “lashed at him with reins, attempted to drag him back into the water, and nearly trampled him.”

Mr. Joseph and ten other Haitian nationals held in the temporary Border Patrol camp allege that this mistreatment was part of a discriminatory policy by the Biden administration to target Haitians. Plaintiffs allege that the U.S. government differentially applied the Title 42 process—a summary expulsion process purportedly designed to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that the government used Title 42 at the Del Rio Port of Entry against Haitian and Haitian-appearing asylum seekers with the purpose of discouraging them from accessing their right to seek asylum. Plaintiffs assert that this Haitian Deterrence Policy diverges from standard practice for asylum seekers and is driven by discriminatory purpose. Despite ample warning that thousands of Haitian migrants were heading toward Del Rio, federal authorities refused to prepare adequate infrastructure to receive them when arrivals started ramping up in September. As a result, a makeshift processing center under the Del Rio International Bridge turned into an encampment, where up to 15,000 people were made to wait for days at a time in temperatures topping 100 degrees without adequate food, water, bedding, or medical attention.

Footage described in the complaint prompted a national outcry in September 2021, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki calling the tape “horrific” during her September 20 press briefing. DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas launched an internal investigation into the encounter. While the Secretary initially called for findings to be released by the end of September, results are still pending.

Plaintiffs allege that the Haitian Deterrence Policy did not end with mistreatment in Del Rio. After being processed for admission, the U.S. government placed those Haitian asylum seekers in detention, split up families, and shackled and removed them to Haiti without providing the opportunity to request humanitarian protection in the United States. Plaintiff Wilson Doe testified that DHS officers lied and said his family was being transferred to another detention facility when they were actually being expelled pursuant to Title 42. Officers then beat him when he resisted boarding the plane.

Plaintiffs allege violations of the Fifth Amendment due process clause and the Administrative Procedure Act. They also seek certification for a class of all Haitian or presumed Haitian individuals who were denied access to the U.S. asylum process in or around the Del Rio encampment between September 9 and 24, 2021. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief enjoining the government from subjecting members of the proposed class to the Haitian Deterrence Policy or Title 42 expulsions. They also seek return of those already expelled under Title 42 to allow them to pursue their asylum claims. Plaintiffs filed their complaint on December 20, 2021. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss on June 10, 2022.

Documents:
Complaint
Motion to Dismiss

Counsel: Innovation Law Lab; Haitian Bridge Alliance; Justice Action Center.

Contacts:
Taisha Santil | tsaintil@haitianbridge.org
Tasha Moro | tasha.moro@justiceactioncenter.org
Alex Mensing | alexm@innovationlawlab.org

Press:
Class Action Ties Alleged Whipping To Haitian Discrimination
Haitian Migrants File Lawsuit Protesting Treatment by Border Patrol

Granillo v. United States of America

Granillo v. United States of America, No. 2:21-cv-00777 (D.N.M., filed Aug. 18, 2021)

Anastacio Granillo is a 64-year-old man who was assaulted by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the Columbus Port of Entry while returning home from visiting family in Mexico in June 2019. On June 18, 2019, Mr. Granillo arrived at the Columbus Port of Entry with his wife’s cousin. At passport check, Mr. Granillo suggested to CBP Officer Oscar Orrantia that it would be helpful to open up another lane to allow for faster processing of vehicles in the heat. The officer responded in an angry tone and stated that CBP officers could do whatever they wanted. The CBP officer then asked what Mr. Granillo was bringing into the United States. Mr. Granillo responded that he was bringing allergy medication that he purchased in Mexico. He attempted to hand the medication to the officer, but accidentally dropped it, and it landed in the officer’s hands. The officer accused Mr. Granillo of throwing the medication at him before forcing him out of his vehicle and slamming him against the wall of the vehicle inspection bay, causing him to hit his head, fall to the ground, and suffer multiple injuries. CBP then detained him without medical help for close to an hour, despite him having a large visible bump on his forehead.

Mr. Granillo filed a complaint in the District of New Mexico on August 18, 2021. He alleged Officer Orrantia used excessive and unnecessary force against him and illegally detained him. Mr. Granillo claims the following causes of action under the Federal Tort Claims Act: assault, battery, false arrest, and negligence. The government filed an answer to the complaint on October 22, 2021. The parties met on December 16, 2021, and filed a joint status report outlining their provisional discovery plan on January 3, 2022. Defendants attempted to stay discovery and release of a key piece of video evidence for six months. On March 8, 2022, the District Court denied the requested six-month stay and ordered release of the video on or before May 5, 2022. The court held a Rule 16 conference on May116, 2022. On July 6, 2022, the parties reached a tentative settlement agreement. The parties moved to vacate the scheduling order and deadlines on July 19, 2022, in order to finalize settlement discussions, and moved to dismiss the case on August 30, 2022.

Documents:
Complaint
Answer
Joint Status Report

Counsel:
ACLU of New Mexico

Contact:
María Martínez Sánchez | msanchez@aclu-nm.org
Zoila Alvarez Hernández | zalvarez@aclu-nm.org
Rebecca Fae Sherman Sheff | rsheff@aclu-nm.org

Press:
ACLU Sues CBP for Excessive Force Against New Mexican Man at Columbus Port of Entry

Villalobos et al. v. United States

Villalobos et al. v. United States, No. 0:21-cv-02233 (D. Minn., filed Oct. 11, 2021)

Plaintiff Kerlin Sanchez Villalobos and her younger sister are suing the United States for the severe abuse and mistreatment they suffered while they were held in immigration custody. In June 2019, they entered the United States seeking safety from violence and persecution in Honduras, and were arrested by CBP agents. At the time, Kerlin was sixteen and her sister was fourteen. After their arrest, Kerlin and her sister were taken to a CBP detention facility in Clint, Texas and held there for nine days, after which they were forcibly separated and transferred to different group homes operated by Southwest Key Programs, Inc.

At the facility in Clint, Texas, CBP officers and government contractors mistreated Plaintiffs in a variety of ways, including physically assaulting them, depriving them of adequate food and water, denying them access to necessary medical care and medication, forcing them to watch the mistreatment of other children, and forcing them to care for younger children. Officers forced the girls to lift their shirts to be searched in a non-private setting, and threw away medicine one of the sisters brought with her to treat a recent injury. According to the siblings, officers ordered them to control the younger children who were crying because they were separated from their families. One of the sisters was injured by an officer who kicked her repeatedly. Additionally, the Clint facility was reported to have subpar sanitation for the number of children held there, and an MSNBC video from 2019 revealed children caged like animals. According to an ABC news report, staff had no training on caring for children.

In spite of initially assuring the sisters they would not be separated, officers traumatically separated the sisters without explanation and transported them to separate group homes. Despite prior reports of abuse at the Texas group homes where the sisters were held, the U.S. government has continued to place children there. In total, Kerlin spent twenty days in detention, and her sister spent twenty-nine days. Plaintiffs seek compensatory damages for negligence, negligent undertaking, battery, and assault under Texas law via the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Plaintiffs filed their complaint in October 2021 and the United States answered in January 2022. After engaging in discovery, the parties reached a settlement, which was reviewed and approved by the court with regards to the minor plaintiff. The case was dismissed pursuant to a stipulation of dismissal by the parties.