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Herrera v. McAleenan

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

September 3, 2019

CHRISTIAN GARCIA HERRERA, Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN K. MCALEENAN, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, LOREN MILLER, Director, Nebraska Service Center, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, KENNETH T. CUCCINELLI, Acting Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, MATTHEW T. ALBENCE, Acting Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, CHRYSTA STOCK, Spokane Field Office Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          THOMAS O. RICE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15). This matter was Submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the record and files herein, and is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 15) is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises from the nonrenewal of Plaintiff Christian Garcia Herrera's deferred action status under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”).

         The following facts are drawn from Plaintiff's Complaint and construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. Schwarz v. United States, 234 F.3d 428, 436 (9th Cir. 2000). Plaintiff is 21 years old and currently resides in Tonasket, Washington. ECF No. 1 at 6, ¶ 27. Plaintiff was brought to this country from Mexico in 1998 when he was 1 year old. Id. Plaintiff completed junior high school, where he excelled academically, and graduated from high school in Tonasket in June 2016. Id. at 10, ¶ 43. Following graduation, Plaintiff began working as a firefighter for Washington's Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”). Id. at ¶ 44. Plaintiff hopes to one day work in law enforcement. Id. at 2, ¶ 3.

         Plaintiff has been granted deferred action status under DACA for the past six years. Plaintiff first received deferred status under DACA in January 2013, and his subsequent renewal applications were approved in 2015 and 2017. Id. at 11, ¶ 50. Plaintiff also applied for and received work authorization in conjunction with the grants of deferred action. Plaintiff's most recently approved renewal application extended his deferred action status and work authorization through February 13, 2019. Id.

         On October 29, 2018, Plaintiff applied to renew his deferred action status and work authorization. Id. at 12, ¶ 51. Though Plaintiff's circumstances regarding his eligibility for DACA remained unchanged, as he continued to satisfy the program's educational and residency requirements and has no criminal history whatsoever, USCIS denied Plaintiff's renewal application on November 30, 2018. Id. at 4, ¶ 19; 12, ¶ 51. The November 2018 denial letter did not identify the factors USCIS considered or provide a detailed account of the reasons for USCIS's decision, aside from stating: “You have not established that you warrant a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion.” ECF No. 4-20.

         On January 14, 2019, Plaintiff submitted another renewal application to USCIS, which included additional evidence regarding Plaintiff's success in school and his work as a firefighter. ECF No. 1 at 12, ¶ 52. However, on February 5, 2019, Plaintiff's renewal application was again denied by USCIS. Id. According to Plaintiff, mirroring the November 2018 denial letter, the February 2019 denial letter simply stated that Plaintiff did not establish that he warranted a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion, without noting any positive or negative factors considered in the decision-making process. See ECF No. 4-23. Following the denial of his renewal application, Plaintiff's grants of deferred action status and employment authorization officially expired on February 13, 2019. ECF No. 1 at 11, ¶ 50.

         On March 25, 2019, Plaintiff initiated this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against the following Defendants: Loren Miller, in his official capacity as Director of USCIS, Nebraska Service Center; Kenneth T. Cuccinelli, in his official capacity as Acting Director of USCIS; Thomas D. Homan, in his official capacity as Acting Director of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”)[1]; Chrysta Stock, in her official capacity as Spokane Field Office Director, USCIS; and Kevin K. McAleenan, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). ECF No. 1 at 6, ¶¶ 28-32 . Plaintiff contends that “[t]he government's decisions to deny the renewal of Mr. Garcia Herrera's DACA status, without meaningful explanation or process, and in violation of the program's enumerated eligibility criteria, violate the [APA] . . . as well as the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” Id. at 5, ¶ 22. As stated in his Complaint, Plaintiff specifically asks this Court to (1) “declare the government's actions unlawful, ” (2) “order that the government re-adjudicate his application for DACA under the program's existing eligibility criteria using a fair procedure, ” and (3) “comply with its own rules and restore his DACA, pending the outcome of the government's decisions.” Id. at ¶ 23.

         On April 18, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction. ECF No. 4. Plaintiff sought an order from this Court to temporarily enjoin the denial of Plaintiff's DACA renewal application pending an eligibility determination that comports with the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. ECF No. 4. On May 2, 2019, Defendants collectively filed a response opposing Plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 9), and Plaintiff timely replied (ECF No. 11).

         On May 8, 2019, the Court denied Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction. ECF No. 14. Specifically, the Court found it had jurisdiction to review Plaintiff's claim, but that Plaintiff was not entitled to injunctive relief because he could not show he was likely to succeed on the merits. Id. at 9-18.

         On June 10, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 15. On July 1, 2019, Plaintiff filed a response opposing the motion, ECF No. 16, and Defendants timely replied, ECF No. 17.

         DISCUSSION

         A. The DACA Program

         The Court previously summarized the DACA program in its Order Denying Plaintiff's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction. ECF No. 14. On June 15, 2012, former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced the creation of the DACA program. ECF No. 4-4 (“Napolitano Memo”). In her memorandum, Secretary Napolitano provided DHS with guidelines regarding the exercise of its prosecutorial discretion in the enforcement of “the Nation's immigration laws against certain young people who came to this country as children and know only this country as a home.” Id. at 1. The Napolitano Memo lists the following five criteria that “should be satisfied before an individual is considered for an exercise of prosecutorial discretion pursuant to this memorandum”:

• came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
• has continuously resided in the United States for at 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 Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
• has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to ...

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