Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law
The Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Foundation serves as class counsel for all apprehended unaccompanied minors in the US, pursuant to nationwide settlements reached in two major cases: Perez-Olano v. Johnson and Flores v. Reno. More information, resources, and copies of the settlements are available below.
Perez-Olano, et al. v. Holder, et al., (Case No. CV 05-3604, in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California)
BackgroundIn this class-action, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law ("Center") challenged certain administrative policies and practices that blocked abused, abandoned, and neglected youth from receiving lawful immigration status as “special immigrant juveniles” (SIJs). Pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) youth whom a state juvenile court declares dependent on account of abuse, abandonment, or neglect may petition the U.S. Immigration & Citizenship Services (CIS)—a bureau of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—to classify them as SIJs. If so classified, they are eligible to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States. 8 U.S.C. § 1255. These provisions give effect to Congress’s determination that abused, abandoned or neglected youth who have no parents fit and available to care for them should be given a chance to live safe and productive lives in the United States.
Flores v. Meese
In the Flores nationwide class action settlement negotiated between the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law and the federal Government 1997, the government agreed to vastly improve conditions of detention of minors, to release minors to a wide range of responsible adults, and except in rare circumstances to not hold minors in detention facilities for more than 72 hours.
In late 2014, the Center along with co-counsel including Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, La Raza Centro Legal, and the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley, challenged the Obama Administration's new policy of detaining minors apprehended with their mothers. We also challenge the conditions in Border Patrol stations where minors are generally held for a couple of days following arrest. Below are links to the latest legal filings. The case is scheduled for a hearing in federal court in Los Angeles on March 27, 2015. We are seeking a federal court order requiring that the Government release minors who were apprehended with their mothers to other relatives, responsible adults, or to licensed group homes.
BackgroundThe Flores Settlement Agreement was the first document to establish guidelines for the treatment of children in the immigration detention system. The case originated with Jenny Lisette Flores, a 15-year-old child from El
Salvador who came to the United States in 1985. Jenny fled the
violence of El Salvador to be reunited with her aunt, who was living in
the United States; however, she never made it to her aunt’s home. The
former United States Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) - currently USCIS, apprehended and arrested Jenny at the border: She was handcuffed, strip searched, and placed in a juvenile detention center where she spent the next two months waiting for her deportation hearing. The INS placed Jenny in a facility that did not provide educational, nor many recreational opportunities. Furthermore, some of the minors in the facility had to share “bathrooms and sleeping quarters with unrelated adults of both sexes.”
Although Jenny had no criminal history, was not a flight risk, and was not a threat to anyone, the INS would not release Jenny to her aunt because the INS did not allow unaccompanied minors to be released to “third-party adults.”
The court certified the class, and the resulting litigation spanned more than nine years. The case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court. The Court found that the release procedures did not violate the minors’ substantive or procedural due process rights, and that the Attorney General was acting within his discretion. Additionally, the Court “described the arrangements as ‘legal custody’ and not ‘detention’ because the facilities in which immigrant minors [were] detained [were] ‘not correctional institutions, but facilities that meet state licensing requirements for the provision of shelter care, foster care, group care, and related services to dependent children.’” The Court remanded the case to the district court. The parties reached a settlement agreement before the district court could make a final determination on the case. The resulting FSA established a “nationwide policy for the detention, release, and treatment of minors in the custody of the INS.
Perez-Olano v. Johnson:
On July 21, 2014 lawyers for the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law and Public Counsel filed a motion for class-wide enforcement of the settlement in Perez-Olano v. Johnson. The Perez-Olano settlement bars the Department of Homeland Security and its subordinate agencies, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) and Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), from blocking abused, abandoned and neglected children's access to lawful status as Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) by (1) demanding that they obtain the consent of the federal government before seeking the protection of state juvenile courts, or (2) by declaring them ineligible for SIJ merely because they turn 18 before filing for SIJ benefits. In the enforcement motion, lawyers for abused, abandoned and neglected immigrant youth argue that under the Perez-Olano settlement and the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Act applicants need only be under 21 at the time they apply for SIJ benefits.
Henriquez-Rivas v. Holder,
707 F.3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2013) The Ninth Circuit overruled Soriano v. Holder, and Velasco–Cervantes v. Holder, holding that witnesses who testify against gang members may constitute a particular social group on an application for asylum despite a lack of social visibility. This case involved a 12-year-old girl from El Salvador who testified against the gang members who murdered her father. The en banc Ninth Circuit ruled in February 2013 that the Board of Immigration Appeals misapplied its own precedent in denying asylum to Ms. Rivas and overruled cases applying an overly restrictive interpretation of the particular social group ground more broadly.
Martinez-Seren v. Holder,
394 F. App'x 404 (9th Cir. 2012) The Ninth Circuit vacated the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) decision and remanded, holding that BIA failed to address the family aspect of petitioner’s proposed social group…which was particularly relevant in light of record evidence that the gang targeted members of Martinez-Seren’s family in addition to him and his sister.
Arizona Dream Act Coalition, et al v. Brewer,
(D.C. No. 2:12-cv-02546-DGC) The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with a coalition of civil rights organizations, filed a class-action lawsuit challenging Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s unconstitutional executive order, which denies driver’s licenses to a specific class of immigrant youth despite their being authorized to live and work in the United States. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division to end its policy of denying licenses to young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children. The court said that this group of young people are seriously harmed by their inability to get drivers’ licenses.
M.S.P.C. v. Johnson
(D.C. No. 1:14-cv-01437) The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, and National Immigration Law Center today sued the federal government to challenge its policies denying a fair deportation process to mothers and children who have fled extreme violence, death threats, rape, and persecution in Central America and come to the United States seeking safety. The groups filed the case on behalf of mothers and children locked up at an isolated detention center in Artesia, New Mexico — hours from the nearest major metropolitan area. The complaint charges the Obama administration with enacting a new strong-arm policy to ensure rapid deportations by holding these mothers and their children to a nearly insurmountable and erroneous standard to prove their asylum claims, and by placing countless hurdles in front of them.
J.E.F.M. v. Holder
(D.C. No. 2:14-cv-01026-TSZ) The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, Public Counsel, and K&L Gates LLP filed a nationwide class-action lawsuit on July 9, 2014 on behalf of thousands of children who are challenging the federal government's failure to provide them with legal representation in deportation hearings. The complaint charges the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Office of Refugee Resettlement with violating the U.S. Constitution's Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause and the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions requiring a "full and fair hearing" before an immigration judge. It seeks to require the government to provide children with legal representation in their deportation hearings. The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, Wash.