Garcia Ramirez v. U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA WILMER GARCIA RAMIREZ, et al., : : Plaintiffs. : Civil Action No.: 18-508 (RC) : v. : Re Document No.: 2 : U.S. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS : ENFORCEMENT, et al., : : Defendants. : MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION I. INTRODUCTION Plaintiffs—three immigrant teenagers who entered the United States without inspection as unaccompanied minors—bring this putative class action, alleging that, upon reaching their respective eighteenth birthdays, Defendants transferred them to adult detention facilities without considering less restrictive placements in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2)(B). Plaintiffs also contend that Defendants routinely and systematically fail to abide by this statutory provision. Presently before the Court is a motion for preliminary injunctive relief, which seeks to compel Defendants to comply with the statutory mandate in placing Plaintiffs Wilmer Garcia Ramirez and Sulma Hernandez Alfaro. For the reasons explained below, the Court grants the motion. II. BACKGROUND A. Statutory and Regulatory Framework Most immigration enforcement functions are carried out by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) is housed. See 6 U.S.C. §§ 111, 251, 291. Congress established a different legal framework, however, for the care and custody of “unaccompanied alien children”—defined as children under age eighteen, who have no lawful immigration status in the United States and no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody. 6 U.S.C. § 279(g)(2). Except in exceptional circumstances, unaccompanied minors apprehended by immigration officials are transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”). 8 U.S.C. § 1232(b)(3). The Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”), a division of HHS, is thereafter responsible for, among other things, “coordinating and implementing the care and placement” of such children. 6 U.S.C. § 279(a)–(b)(1)(A). Congress has established that these children “shall be promptly placed in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” and that “[i]n making such placements, the Secretary [of HHS] may consider danger to self, danger to the community, and risk of flight.” 8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2)(A). HHS only has authority over the care and custody of immigrant children, however. See 6 U.S.C. § 279. And, of course, children do not stay children forever. Congress accounted for that fact of life, extending certain protections to newly adult immigrants who were formerly in the care and custody of HHS. Pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1232(c)(2)(B): If [an unaccompanied alien child in the custody of the Secretary of HHS] reaches 18 years of age and is transferred to the custody of the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Secretary [of DHS] shall consider placement in the least restrictive setting available after taking into account the alien’s danger to self, danger to the community, and risk of flight. Such aliens shall be eligible to participate in alternative to detention programs, utilizing a continuum of alternatives based on the alien’s need for supervision, which may include placement of the ...

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