Law School Case Brief
Ramos v. Nielsen - No. 18-cv-01554-EMC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 105988 (N.D. Cal. June 25, 2018)
There is a strong presumption that agency actions and constitutional claims are reviewable in federal court absent clear and convincing evidence of Congressional intent to the contrary. However, a federal statute barring judicial review of "a determination" does not "preclude an action challenging the legality of a regulation.
Defendants were various officials of the United States Department of Homeland Security. Alleging defendants' motivation by racial animus, plaintiffs challenged the defendants' adoption of a new rule employed in the evaluation of whether to extend or terminate a Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the court has no subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case. The Temporary Protected Status ("TPS") statute, 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(b)(5)(A), provides that there is no judicial review of any determination of the Attorney General with respect to the designation, or termination or extension of a designation, of a foreign state under this subsection.
Does the United States District Court have subject matter jurisdiction to hear a case in which plaintiffs challenge the Department of Homeland Security officials' adoption of a new rule employed in the evaluation of whether to extend or terminate a Temporary Protected Status designation for Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan?
The United States District Court denied defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. First, the Court ruled that it had subject matter jurisdiction to hear this case. The Court found that plaintiffs did not challenge the substantive factual determinations to terminate TPS status of the four countries. Because plaintiffs' challenge was not to a "determination" within the scope of Section 1254a, the defendants' motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) was denied. Looking to plaintiffs' Equal Protection claims, the Court explained that government action motivated by racial animus is subject to strict scrutiny and that courts may look beyond a facially-neutral policy to consider, e.g., the specific sequence of events leading up to the challenged decision, departures from the normal procedural sequence, and "statements by members of the decisionmaking body. Recognizing that the law in this area was developing and decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States and Courts of Appeals could alter the equal protection analysis, the Court provisionally denied defendants' motion to dismiss. As for the Due Process claims of the plaintiffs who were U.S. citizen children and TPS holders, the Court decided that those plaintiffs had a liberty interest protected by the Fifth Amendment not to be removed from the United States, not to be separated from their families, and not to be forced to make a choice between the two. Although it was questionable whether plaintiffs can establish such a broad Due Process claim, to the extent plaintiffs stated a claim that the defendant Department's actions in this case violated Equal Protection and/or the Administrative Procedure Act, the Court found that plaintiffs commensurately stated Due Process claims and thus, the government has no justifiable interest in unlawful law enforcement. The Court explained that this was an abbreviated disposition and that a reasoned opinion with analysis would be issued separately in the near future. Defendants were ordered to produce the administrative records for the TPS termination of Sudan and Nicaragua within 10 days, and for El Salvador and Haiti one week later.
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