United States District Court, District of Columbia
MS. Q., et al., Plaintiffs,
U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. FRIEDMAN JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendants' motion to
dismiss. See Dkt. No. 41. Plaintiffs, Ms. Q. and her
minor son J., have opposed the motion to dismiss,
see Dkt. No. 42; defendants have not filed a reply
in support of their motion. Nor have they addressed
plaintiffs' request that the Court stay these proceedings
pending the outcome of plaintiffs' asylum proceedings.
See Response to Show Cause Order, Dkt. No. 44, at
5-6. Accordingly, and for the reasons described below, the
Court will stay these proceedings.
and her minor son J. traveled to the United States in March
2018 to seek asylum from gang violence in El Salvador.
Immigration authorities apprehended Ms. Q. and J. shortly
after they entered the United States between legal points of
entry. Suspecting that Ms. Q. herself was affiliated with a
gang, authorities separated her from her son and took J. to a
shelter for unaccompanied minors operated by the Office of
Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”). In October 2018,
plaintiffs filed a complaint seeking declaratory relief and
an injunction that would prevent defendants from separating
Ms. Q. and J. during the pendency of their asylum petitions.
See Dkt. No. 1. The next day, plaintiffs filed a
motion for a preliminary injunction seeking immediate
reunification. See Dkt. No. 7. Following oral
argument on November 27, 2018, the Court granted the motion
for preliminary injunction, and ordered defendants to reunite
Ms. Q. and J. See Dkt. No. 26. Defendants complied
with the Court's Order to reunite Ms. Q. and J. on
November 30, 2018, after eight months of confining Ms. Q and
her three-year-old child in separate detention facilities.
See Supplemental Status Report, Dkt. No. 29, at 1.
Plaintiffs have now been released from defendants'
custody under an alternative to detention program while they
pursue their asylum claims. Response at 11.
argue that because plaintiffs' claims for relief are
premised on their separation, the claims are now moot. This
Court has granted motions to dismiss under related
circumstances. See, e.g., Mejia-Mejia
v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enf't, 2019 WL
4707150, at *2 (D.D.C. Sept. 26, 2019). Plaintiffs in this
matter, however, have provided specific information in
support of their claim that a live controversy persists
between plaintiffs and defendants. First, although plaintiffs
have been reunited and released, the government explicitly
reserved both (1) “all rights to seek review of the
[Preliminary Injunction] Order on appeal or otherwise,
” and (2) “the ability to take action pursuant to
any request for provisional arrest or extradition . . .
without notice to this Court.” Supplemental Status
Report, Dkt. No. 29, at 1. Second, the initial separation
occurred under color of criminal allegations that apparently
continue to exist: Ms. Q. and J. did not enter at a legal
port of entry, and the government has never retracted its
claim that Ms. Q.'s alleged gang affiliation - though
premised on a largely discredited group warrant - offers a
basis to detain Ms. Q. and to separate her from her son.
Finally, frequent contact between the parties is likely to
persist so long as plaintiffs seek asylum - the very time
frame identified as the focus of their request for injunctive
relief. That is because, under the terms of plaintiffs'
discretionary release, Ms. Q. must report to an office of the
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”)
every three months.
Court need not determine at this time whether these facts
constitute a live controversy that could be affected by
relief from this Court, or whether, if not, plaintiffs'
claims nevertheless may proceed under the “capable of
repetition yet evading review” exception to the
mootness doctrine. See Response at 42; Planned
Parenthood of Wisconsin, Inc. v. Azar, 2019 WL 6121445
at *3 (D.C. Cir. Nov. 19, 2019) (“That exception to
mootness applies when (1) the challenged action is in its
duration too short to be fully litigated prior to its
cessation or expiration, and (2) there is a reasonable
expectation that the same complaining party will be subjected
to the same action again.”). The mootness questions need
not be resolved because “[t]he Court has the inherent
power to manage its docket and stay proceedings.”
Juniper Networks, Inc. v. Bahattab, 2011 WL
13262818, at *1 (D.D.C. Mar. 31, 2011) (citing Landis v.
North America Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936). In
particular, “a trial court has broad discretion to stay
all proceedings in an action pending the resolution of
independent proceedings elsewhere.” Juniper
Networks, Inc., v. Bahattab, 2011 WL 13262818 at 1. The
Court finds it appropriate to do so here. In the instant
case, the outcomes of plaintiffs' asylum petitions, which
are currently pending before the Board of Immigration
Appeals, are likely either to facilitate resolution of this
case or to alter the mootness analysis. Granting a stay in
this matter would simply maintain the status quo created by
the preliminary injunction, and would not prejudice any
party. Indeed, defendants have not interposed an objection to
plaintiffs' suggestion that the case be stayed.
Accordingly, it is hereby
that this matter is STAYED until further order of this Court;
ORDERED that defendants' motion to dismiss [Dkt. No. 41]
is HELD IN ABEYANCE until further order of this Court; it is
ORDERED that the parties shall submit a joint status report
on or before January 21, 2020, informing the court of the
status of this litigation and the progress of the
plaintiffs' asylum proceedings; and it is
ORDERED that the parties shall submit a joint status report
within seven days of any material change in either plaintiffs
asylum or custodial status.
 It is clear, however, that another
exception to the mootness doctrine - the voluntary cessation
exception - is facially inapplicable to this case. Because
the government reunited Ms. Q. and J. only upon the explicit
order of this Court - and then, only at the last minute,
while maintaining their objections - the cessation was
definitionally involuntary. Cf. Friends of the
Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs., 528 U.S. 167, 190
(2000) (“[A] defendant claiming that its voluntary