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Medina v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

May 15, 2018

DANIEL RAMIREZ MEDINA, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Dkt. #122. The Court held oral argument on May 1, 2018, after which the Court directed the parties to submit additional briefing. Dkt. #128. The parties have since submitted that briefing. Dkts. #130 and #131. Plaintiff now seeks an Order enjoining Defendants from terminating his DACA status and work authorization pending adjudication on the merits of his case, and enjoining Defendant USCIS from continuing to accuse him of being a gang member in any further proceedings. Dkt. #130. Defendants oppose the motion, arguing that this Court lacks authority to hear and/or grant Plaintiff's request for new relief, and that Plaintiff's request goes too far beyond simply preserving the status quo. Dkt. #131. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court disagrees with Defendants and GRANTS Plaintiff's motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff Daniel Ramirez Medina

         Plaintiff, Daniel Ramirez Medina, is 25 years old, and the father of an American-born son. Dkt. #78, Ex. O at ¶ ¶ 2 and 8. Mr. Ramirez was brought to this country from Mexico in or around 2003, when he was approximately 10 years old. Id. at ¶ 2. Mr. Ramirez alleges that he moved from California to Washington to obtain more lucrative employment to better support his son.[1] Id. at ¶ 10.

         In late 2013, Mr. Ramirez first applied for deferred action and work authorization pursuant to the government's “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (“DACA”) policy. Id. at 3. As part of this process, Mr. Ramirez provided the government with his birth certificate, school records, and information about where he lived, and was required to attend a biometrics appointment so that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) could take his fingerprints and photographs. Dkt. #78, Ex. O at ¶ 3. Mr. Ramirez was granted deferred action and work authorization in 2014. Id. at ¶ 6.

         In 2016, Mr. Ramirez reapplied for DACA status, and again was granted deferred action and work authorization. Id.at ¶ 9. As part of this process, Mr. Ramirez received an approval notice (the “2016 DACA Approval Notice”) informing him that his request for deferred action had been granted. Id. The 2016 DACA Approval Notice provided that “[u]nless terminated, this decision to defer removal action will remain in effect for 2 years” and is valid until May 4, 2018. Dkt. #78, Ex. G. The 2016 DACA Approval Notice also informed Mr. Ramirez that his deferred action could be terminated if he engaged in “[s]ubsequent criminal activity.” Id.

         On February 10, 2017, at approximately 9:00 a.m., a team of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) agents arrested Mr. Ramirez's father outside of the apartment where Mr. Ramirez, his father, and his brother were then living. Dkt. #78, Ex. O at ¶ 14. ICE agents entered the apartment.[2] Id. The agents found Mr. Ramirez asleep, woke him up, and began to question him. Id. at ¶ 15. Mr. Ramirez provided the agents with his name and birthdate, and told them that he was born in Mexico. Mr. Ramirez was then placed in handcuffs. Id.

         According to Mr. Ramirez, he told the ICE agents repeatedly that he had a legal work permit, but the ICE agents refused to release him. Id. at ¶ 17. Mr. Ramirez's father also repeatedly informed the ICE agents that Mr. Ramirez had a legal work permit, and questioned why he was being detained. Dkt. #78 at ¶ 46.

         Mr. Ramirez was then transported to an ICE holding facility in Tukwila, Washington. Id. at ¶ 47. At the holding facility, the ICE agents confiscated Mr. Ramirez's work permit. Id. at ¶ 48. That permit was marked with a “C33” designation, which identified Mr. Ramirez as a DACA recipient with work authorization. Dkt. #78, Ex. F at 112. The ICE agents also fingerprinted Mr. Ramirez and used this information to access his records, which revealed that Mr. Ramirez has no criminal history, had twice been granted DACA status, and possessed valid employment authorization through May 4, 2018. Dkt. #78 at ¶ 49. Defendants refused to release Mr. Ramirez even after they confirmed his DACA status. Id. at ¶ 50. Defendants subsequently cited Mr. Ramirez's receipt of DACA as evidence of his “illegal” status in this country. Id., Ex. H at 3.

         According to Mr. Ramirez, the ICE agents began to interrogate him, asking him numerous times whether he was in a gang, which he denied, and whether he had ever known anyone who was a gang member. Dkt. #78 at ¶ 51. Mr. Ramirez told the agents that although that he knew students who had attended middle school and high school with him who were in gangs, he was not gang affiliated and never had been. Id. The ICE agents also asked Mr. Ramirez about the tattoo on his forearm (which consisted of the words “La Paz-BCS” and a nautical star). Id.at ¶ 52. Mr. Ramirez got the tattoo when he was 18 years old. La Paz is Mr. Ramirez's birthplace, and “BCS” stands for Baja California Sur, the region in which La Paz is located. Id. The agents apparently insisted to Mr. Ramirez that it was a gang tattoo, which he also denied. Id.at 53.

         Prior to being transferred to the Northwest Detention Center, the ICE agents asked Mr. Ramirez if there were any gangs with which he would like to avoid being placed for his safety. Id. at ¶ 54. Mr. Ramirez again stated that he had no gang affiliation and would not have problems being placed with anyone. Dkt. #78 at ¶ 54. Upon continued questioning, Mr. Ramirez ultimately indicated that if he had to be placed with any group, he would prefer “the Paisas.” Id. Mr. Ramirez understands the colloquial use of “Paisas” to mean Mexicans, and was attempting to communicate that if given the option, he would prefer to be placed with other Mexicans. Id.

         Mr. Ramirez was then transferred to Northwest Detention Center, where he remained in custody for the next 47 days. Id. at ¶ 55. While at the Detention Center, Defendants classified Mr. Ramirez as a “medium-high” security risk. Id. at ¶ 59. Mr. Ramirez requested that he be reclassified because he was not, and never had been, gang affiliated. Id. The request was denied. Id. During his detention, Mr. Ramirez asserts that he feared for his safety because many of the other inmates believed he was affiliated with a gang due to the statements made after his arrest. Id.

         Defendants issued a Notice to Appear (“NTA”) on February 10, 2017. Dkt. #78, Ex. I. Defendants assert that Mr. Ramirez's DACA status terminated on the day the NTA was issued. Dkts. #78 at ¶ ¶ 60 and 61, Ex. J and #90 at 7.

         USCIS then sent Mr. Ramirez a Notice of Action (“NOA”) dated February 17, 2017. Dkt. #78, Ex. J. The NOA states that Mr. Ramirez's deferred action and employment authorization terminated on the date the NTA was issued, and provides that “[a]n appeal or motion to reopen/reconsider this notice of action may not be filed.” Id.

         In the meantime, on February 13, 2017, Mr. Ramirez filed a Petition for Habeas Corpus in this Court. Dkt. #1. This Court ultimately declined to order the release of Mr. Ramirez and directed him to file a motion in Immigration Court. Dkt. #69. Pursuant to that Order, Mr. Ramirez filed such motion and received a bond hearing in Immigration Court on March 28, 2017. Dkt. #78 at ¶ 78. Mr. Ramirez was released on bond on March 29, 2017. Id., Ex. V.

         On April 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint in this matter. Dkt. #78. In that Complaint, Plaintiff dropped his habeas claim, and alleged claims against several federal agencies, as well as individual officers. Id. The claims against the individual Defendants have since been dismissed. Dkt. #112. Against the remaining federal agencies, collectively, Plaintiff asserted the following claims: 1) violations of the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) (Counts One and Two); and 2) violation of the Fifth Amendment (Count 8).[3] Dkt. #78 at ¶ ¶ 85-105 and 148-150.

         The federal agency Defendants then filed a second motion to dismiss, which this Court denied on November 8, 2017. Dkt. #116. Defendants filed their Answer to the Second Amended Complaint on December 6, 2017. Dkt. #119.

         On January 17, 2018, an Immigration Judge issued an Order of Removal directing Plaintiff's return to Mexico. See Dkt. #122-1, Ex. B at ¶ 2.

         On February 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant motion. On the day the government's opposition to the motion was due, February 26, 2018, the United States District Court for the Central District of California certified a class that includes all DACA recipients “who, after January 19, 2017, have had or will have their DACA grant and employment authorization revoked without notice or an opportunity to respond, even though they have not been convicted of a disqualifying criminal offense.” Inland Empire-Immigrant Youth Collective v. Nielsen, 2018 WL 1061408, at *22 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 26, 2018) (“Inland Empire II”). In the same order, the court preliminarily enjoined “Defendants' decisions after January 19, 2017 to terminate the DACA grants and EADs of class members, without notice, a reasoned explanation, or an opportunity to respond prior to termination, ” and ordered that “Defendants immediately will restore those individuals' DACA and EADs, subject to their original date of expiration.” Inland Empire, 2018 WL 1061408 at *22. Mr. Ramirez is part of that class.

         On or about April 3, 2018, Defendants issued a Notice to Mr. Ramirez confirming the restoration of his DACA status and work authorization, and stating that his DACA status and work authorization had been extended from May 5, 2016, to May 5, 2018. Dkt. #126-1, Ex. B. On the same date, Defendant USCIS issued a Notice of Intent to Terminate (“NOIT”) Mr. Ramirez's DACA status, stating:

USCIS has reviewed your deferred action pursuant to procedures outlined in the USCIS DACA Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) regarding DACA termination. Specifically, page 138 of the DACA SOP states:
If after consulting with ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement], USCIS determines that exercising prosecutorial discretion after removal has been deferred under DACA is not consistent with the Department of Homeland Security's enforcement priorities, and ICE does not plan to issue an NTA, the officer should refer the case to HQSCOPS [Headquarters Service Center Operations Directorate], through the normal chain of command, to determine whether or not a NOIT [Notice of lntent to Terminate] is appropriate. If it is determined that the case warrants final termination, the officer will issue DACA 603 - Termination Notice [Enforcement Priority, Not Automatically Terminated] from the Appendix I.
USCIS has consulted with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and has determined that exercising prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action in your case is not consistent with DHS's enforcement priorities. As you were already issued an NTA by ICE on February 14, 2017, subsequent to your grant of DACA, further referral to ICE for consideration of NTA issuance is unnecessary. DHS records show that on January 17, 2018, an immigration judge ordered you removed to Mexico.
Additionally, a review of Form 1-213, Record of Deportable Alien, reveals that during an encounter with ICE on February 10, 2017, you admitted to previously associating with the “Sureno's” criminal street gang in the state of California, and to currently associating with the “Paizas” criminal street gang in the state of Washington. While DHS email records indicate that you disputed in immigration court that you are a gang member and that the immigration judge accepted this claim, you nonetheless admitted in immigration court that gangs may identify you as a rival gang member because of your tattoo and you admitted that you withdrew your appeal from placement in a Level 2 gang population at the Norwest Detention Center because you wanted to remain with the gang population. Gang association poses a significant public safety risk. Therefore, it appears that you do not warrant favorable consideration for DACA.
In light of your statements relating to gang association, DHS' determination that you are an enforcement priority, and the fact that ICE has informed USCIS that it is actively pursuing your removal and you were recently ordered removed, USCIS will not contemporaneously conclude that removal action should continue to be deferred in your case. Accordingly, USCIS has determined, in its unreviewable discretion, that you do not warrant a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

Dkt. #126-1, Ex. C.

         B. The DACA Program

         On June 15, 2012, former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced the creation of the DACA program. Dkt. #78, Ex. C (“Napolitano Memo”). In her memorandum, Ms. Napolitano provided DHS with guidelines regarding the exercise of its prosecutorial discretion to focus enforcement efforts away from low priority cases, including individuals who came to the United States as children. Id. The Napolitano Memo listed the following five criteria that must be satisfied before an individual can be considered for an exercise of prosecutorial discretion under DACA:

●came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
●has continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and is present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
●is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the ...

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