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Sadat I. v. Nielsen

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 4, 2019

SADAT I., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, United States Secretary of Homeland Security, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge

         Denying Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice; Granting in Part Plaintiffs' Motion to Join Parties and Amend Complaint

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This action challenges the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (“ICE's”) treatment of certain arriving aliens, one of several challenges to ICE conduct percolating through the federal court system. Plaintiffs traveled to the United States, sought asylum at official ports of entry (“POEs”), and were detained by ICE. They claim that an ICE policy directive dictates that they should be paroled pending consideration of their asylum petitions. However, according to Plaintiffs, ICE officials are no longer following the binding policy directive and are instead systematically denying parole to punish Plaintiffs for seeking asylum, and to deter other potential asylum seekers. Defendants have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' action, [1] and Plaintiffs have moved to amend their complaint and join as plaintiffs three similarly-situated individuals. In the interest of judicial economy, the Court will allow Plaintiffs to amend their complaint and join additional plaintiffs, and it will deny Defendants' motion without prejudice.

         II. BACKGROUND

         This Court's prior opinion contains detailed background on the relevant statutory framework, agency guidance, and Plaintiffs' individual circumstances and conditions of detention. See Aracely, R. v. Nielsen, 319 F.Supp.3d 110, 120-25 (D.D.C. 2018).[2] Briefly, Plaintiffs are “arriving aliens” from outside of the United States who surrendered to ICE officials at POEs, sought asylum, and were detained pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b)(1)(B)(ii) pending consideration of their asylum petitions.[3] As § 1225(b) detainees, Plaintiffs may be paroled “into the United States temporarily” by the Attorney General “in his discretion.” Id. § 1182(d)(5)(A). United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) regulations provide that the Secretary of Homeland Security “may invoke” this parole authority for an individual who is “neither a security risk nor a risk of absconding” and who meets one or more of a series of conditions, one of which is that “continued detention is not in the public interest.” 8 C.F.R. § 212.5(a) & (b)(5).

         A 2009 ICE directive sets forth certain procedures that must be utilized and factors that, according to Plaintiffs, must be considered when evaluating parole requests under 8 C.F.R. § 212.5. ICE Directive No. 11002.1: Parole of Arriving Aliens Found to Have a Credible Fear of Persecution or Torture (“Morton Directive” or the “Directive) (Dec. 8, 2009), ECF No. 74-16. According to the Directive, when an arriving alien found to have a credible fear of persecution establishes, to ICE's satisfaction, his or her identity and that he or she presents neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, “[ICE] should, absent additional factors . . . parole the alien on the basis that his or her continued detention is not in the public interest.” Id. ¶ 6.2; see also id. ¶ 8.3. Plaintiffs claim that they have met these criteria and should be paroled under the Directive. Third Am. Compl. (“TAC”) ¶ 41, ECF No. 73.

         Plaintiffs also claim, however, that despite Plaintiffs' apparent eligibility for parole, ICE officials, at the direction of high-level policy makers, are no longer following the Morton Directive. See id. ¶¶ 38-75. Instead, according to Plaintiffs, ICE is systematically denying parole to adult POE asylum seekers who are unaccompanied by children, to punish those individuals and deter immigration. Id. Plaintiffs claim that they were denied parole because of this deterrence policy, and that their prolonged detention is unconstitutional, contrary to law, and contrary to the Morton Directive. Id. ¶¶ 109-141.

         Plaintiffs now seek to join three additional plaintiffs and amend their complaint for a fourth time.[4] See generally Pls.' Opposed Mot. Join Parties & Amend Compl. (“Amend Mot.”), ECF No. 99. The proposed plaintiffs are POE asylum seekers who are currently detained under 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b) and have been denied parole under § 1182(d)(5)(A). Id. at 1-2; Fourth Am. Compl. (“FAC”) ¶¶ 82, 84-85, ECF No. 99-1. The proposed complaint amendments are relatively minor. First, Plaintiffs have added background details on the proposed plaintiffs. See id. ¶¶ 9-11, 82, 84-85. Second, Plaintiffs have added certain details regarding Defendants' alleged deterrence policy. See id. ¶¶ 54, 62-66. Third, Plaintiffs have asserted that the alleged deterrence policy has been applied to aliens eligible for conditional release under a different statutory provision, 8 U.S.C. § 1231, discussed in greater detail below. See id. ¶¶ 53, 86(J). Fourth, Plaintiffs have withdrawn their claims on behalf of Plaintiffs Aracely R., Hatim B., and Junior M.[5] Fifth, and finally, Plaintiffs have withdrawn certain claims regarding their First Amendment rights and their rights to bond hearings before immigration judges. In summary, Plaintiffs seek to assert substantially the same claims on behalf of substantially similar plaintiffs. Defendants oppose Plaintiffs' motion, and they have filed a motion to dismiss this action in full. See generally Defs.' Opp'n Amend Mot. (“Opp'n”), ECF No. 101; Defs.' Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 96. Both motions are ripe for the Court's consideration.

         III. ANALYSIS

         The Court must first determine whether to grant Plaintiffs' motion to join additional plaintiffs and amend the complaint, because if amendment is warranted Defendants' motion to dismiss is moot. See Adams v. Quattlebaum, 219 F.R.D. 195, 197 (D.D.C. 2004) (“Because [the defendant's] motion [to dismiss] pertains to the original and now-superseded complaint, the court denies it without prejudice.”). The Court will consider, in order of complexity, whether Plaintiffs may join additional plaintiffs under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20, and then whether Plaintiffs may amend their complaint under Federal Rule 15. In line with the Federal Rules' bent towards entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs may join additional plaintiffs and amend their complaint in certain respects. The Court also provides, in the interest of judicial efficiency, time for Plaintiffs to join additional, similarly-situated plaintiffs. Accordingly, the Court grants Plaintiffs' motion in part and denies Defendants' motion without prejudice.

         A. Plaintiffs May Join Additional Plaintiffs

         Federal Rule 20(a)(1) provides that plaintiffs may join in one action if they seek relief “with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences, ” and if “any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 20(a)(1). “The purpose of Rule 20 is to promote trial convenience and expedite the final resolution of disputes, thereby preventing multiple lawsuits, extra expense to the parties, and loss of time to the court as well as the litigants appearing before it.” Boomer Dev., LLC v. Nat. Ass'n of Home Builders of U.S., 325 F.R.D. 6, 18 (D.D.C. 2018) (quoting M.K. v. Tenet, 216 F.R.D. 133, 137 (D.D.C. 2002)). Accordingly, Rule 20(a)'s requirements “are to be liberally construed in the interest of convenience and judicial economy . . . in a manner that will secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of th[e] action.” Spaeth v. Mich. State Univ. Coll. of Law, 845 F.Supp.2d 48, 53 (D.D.C. 2012) (omission and alteration in original) (quoting Davidson v. District of Columbia, 736 F.Supp.2d 115, 119 (D.D.C. 2010)). Despite ample case law suggesting that joinder of plaintiffs should be liberally granted, Defendants raise two primary arguments for why joinder is inappropriate here. Both arguments fail.

         Defendants first argue that Plaintiffs' current claims are moot, and therefore that “there is simply no overlap” between the current Plaintiffs and the proposed plaintiffs “that would provide this Court the opportunity to resolve a common question.” Opp'n at 4. Defendants have the “‘heavy' burden” of establishing mootness. Motor & Equip. Mfrs. Ass'n v. Nichols, 142 F.3d 449, 459 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (quoting L.A. Cty. v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631 (1979)). In attempting to satisfy this burden, Defendants correctly note that “[n]o current [P]laintiff is detained under 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b) with a credible fear of persecution, ” and they argue that Plaintiffs can thus no longer challenge their detention in the same way that the proposed plaintiffs can. Opp'n at 2; see also Joint Status Report, ECF No. 94. However, the mere fact that Defendants have temporarily released Plaintiff Sadat I. from § 1225(b) detention-and that Plaintiff Mikailu J. has become detained under a different statutory provision-does not necessarily moot Plaintiffs' claims. A defendant's cessation of challenged conduct moots an action only if the defendant demonstrates that “(1) there is no reasonable expectation that the conduct will recur and (2) ‘interim relief or events have completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects of the alleged violation.'” Motor & Equip. ...


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