Filed Date: June 19, 2013
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On June 19, 2013, a detained plaintiff filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, as well as private counsel, plaintiff sued Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The plaintiff asked the court for declaratory and injunctive remedies and habeas corpus relief. Specifically, he alleged that ICE's practice of issuing immigration detainers resulted in unlawful seizures and unreasonable over-detentions, in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments. The plaintiff also sought class action certification for all persons who were or would be held under ICE's immigration detainer policy.
Under the Secure Communities program, ICE issued immigration detainers, also known as holds, to individuals in the custody of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. When issuing a detainer, ICE requested that the agency hold the individual for 48 business hours (excluding weekends and holidays) past the time he or she would otherwise be released from criminal custody. During this time, ICE would investigate whether the individual was subject to immigration removal. If so, ICE could assume physical custody. The plaintiff argued that ICE's immigration detainer practice violated the Fourth Amendment, as it initiated a seizure without probable cause for a reason unrelated to the initial criminal custody. According to plaintiff, ICE -- contrary to stated policy -- in practice did not require probable cause for issuing a detainer and often did not investigate removability until after the individual was already in ICE's physical custody. An individual could not contest ICE's determination of removability until he or she had already been detained.
The plaintiff alleged he was a natural-born United States citizen, was detained and awaiting trial in a Los Angeles County jail on a criminal charge, and subsequently was detained in ICE custody. Despite ample evidence of his U.S. citizenship, the plaintiff alleged that ICE issued an immigration detainer on him, based on an erroneous belief that he was a Mexican national.
The case was assigned to Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell. On Sept. 18, 2013, the plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. This document stated that the first plaintiff had been released from ICE custody shortly after the first complaint had been filed. The second amended complaint also added another plaintiff, a naturalized U.S. citizen for whom ICE had also issued an immigration detainer and later released.
On July 28, 2014, Judge O'Connell granted defendants' March 10, 2014 motion to dismiss the second amended complaint, but allowed the plaintiffs leave to amend. Although Judge O'Connell found that the plaintiffs had suffered injuries directly traceable to ICE, and had been in ICE's custody for habeas purposes, the plaintiffs were unlikely to reenter ICE custody and therefore lacked standing to seek prospective injunctive relief. But they still had standing to seek certain injunctive relief, because they had sufficiently pleaded a claim that ICE's detainer practices were ultra vires; their claims were not moot even after ICE canceled their detainers. 2014 WL 12605368 (C.D. Cal. July 28, 2014).
On August 18, 2014, the plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint. According to plaintiffs, immigration detainers, in addition to creating unconstitutional detentions, also harmed criminal defendants by constraining their ability to post bail, negotiate for plea arrangements, and qualify for beneficial jail or prison classifications and work programs. In addition to the claims in the first complaint, the plaintiffs added another Fourth Amendment violation (detention without prompt judicial probable cause determination) and another Fifth Amendment violation (procedural due process). Another claim alleged that defendants had exceeded their statutory authority under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act, by requiring local enforcement agencies to make warrantless arrests on ICE's behalf. As in the first complaint, plaintiffs requested injunctive, declaratory, and habeas relief. On the same day as they filed the third amended complaint, the plaintiffs requested class action certification for all persons in Los Angeles County who were or would be subject to immigration detainers.
On October 24, 2014, Judge O'Connell issued an order granting in part defendants' September 15, 2014 motion to dismiss and denying without prejudice plaintiffs' August 18, 2014 motion for class certification. Judge O'Connell held that while the plaintiffs' request for class certification was premature, they could move again for class certification later. Although the plaintiffs had failed to establish likely prospective injury, they were suffering an ongoing injury when they filed suit, and they could bring in additional plaintiffs who were as well. 2014 WL 12605369 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 24, 2014).
On July 28, 2015, Judge O'Connell granted motions to consolidate the case with a related case, Duncan Roy et al. v. County of Los Angeles et. al., Docket No. 2:12-cv-09012 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 19, 2012). Roy was a class action on behalf of individuals in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and who were denied bail or release due to an immigration detainer. 2015 WL 12743601 (C.D. Cal. July 28, 2015). The motions to consolidate were brought by the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Sheriff. Both groups of plaintiffs and ICE objected to LASD's motion on the grounds that the cases involved different defendants and substantially different legal issues and factual questions about defendants' liability. Judge O'Connell overruled these objections and ordered consolidation for pretrial purposes because the two cases both concerned the legality of ICE detainers and the specific issue of whether they must be supported by individual probable cause determinations.
After consolidation, on September 9, 2016, Judge O'Connell granted in part and denied in part plaintiffs' motions for class certification. For the Gonzalez plaintiffs specifically, the court certified the class of all persons subject to an immigration detainer in the Central District of California, but who are not in removal proceedings or have not been ordered removed. 2016 WL 5219468 (C.D. Cal. 2016). This class was further limited to persons where the detainer was issued solely on the basis of electronic database checks. The Gonzalez plaintiffs were also referred to as the Probable Cause subclass.
For post-consolidation activity, see this Clearinghouse page about the Roy plaintiffs.
On June 12, 2017, Judge O'Connell denied the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, filed by two of the Gonzalez plaintiffs. They had asked the court to end ICE’s use of detainers for over 48 hours with no judicial determination of probable cause for this detention, which the plaintiffs alleged violated the Fourth Amendment. Judge O'Connell disagreed, holding that the Fourth Amendment did not require a judge to review ICE officers' probable-cause determinations, because these were civil and not criminal proceedings. Judge O'Connell thus granted summary judgment to the defendants on this issue. 2017 WL 2559616 (C.D. Cal. June 12, 2017).
This case was transferred to Judge Percy Anderson on October 18, 2017, and then transferred again on November 1 to Judge Andre Birotte, Jr.
From late-summer to the beginning of winter 2018, the parties litigated various filing deadlines, further consolidation of the cases, and timing of the trial, and the Roy case was undergoing mediation proceedings. The two cases were to remain consolidated until the conclusion of a trial in either case.
On February 7, 2018, Judge Birotte issued an order. 2018 WL 914773 (C.D. Cal. 2018). First, as to Gonzalez, he denied the Gonzalez defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment, while granting in part and denying in part the Gonzalez plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment. He held that the Court had subject-matter jurisdiction because the Gonzalez plaintiffs' claim did not arise from removal proceedings (under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Court). Rather, ICE issued the detainers to the plaintiffs independent of removal proceedings. Judge Birotte also denied summary judgment as to the Gonzalez probable-cause subclass, because a factual dispute existed as to whether ICE databases were complete and reliable enough to be a sufficient source for the probable-cause determination. Additionally, Judge Birotte held that several Gonzalez subclasses' claims—based on policies that ICE claimed to have ended—were not moot because ICE had not met its heavy burden of establishing it would not resume its practice of issuing warrantless detentions to these groups.
On March 2, 2018, both the Roy and Gonzalez plaintiffs moved to modify the class definition. On March 30, the defendant opposed this motion and also moved for class decertification; the plaintiff replied on April 9. The defendant also, on March 13, moved for reconsideration of the court's order, but Judge Birotte denied this motion on April 18.
On April 18, 2018, Judge Birotte denied the Gonzalez defendants' motion to reconsider the February motion for partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs' subclass.
In light of the court’s April 18, 2018, decision, ICE cancelled all active detainers issued without a warrant by an ICE officer on November 9, 2018.
After being rescheduled several times, the Gonzalez trial took place on May 7 through May 16, 2019.
On June 21, 2019, the Gonzalez plaintiffs filed a motion for a permanent injunction as to the claims decided in the February 7, 2018, summary judgment decision. In that order, the court held that ICE violated the Fourth Amendment when it issued detainers based on no more than evidence of a person's foreign place of birth. The court also held that ICE violated its warrantless arrest authority when it issued detainers without determining that a person was likely to escape before an administrative ICE warrant can be obtained. The plaintiffs argued that a permanent injunction enjoining the detainer practice was appropriate because class members "continue[d] to be subject ... to arrests pursuant to detainers based solely on evidence of foreign birth and an absence of information in DHS databases and to warrantless arrest without any individualized assessment of flight risk."
On September 27, 2019, Judge Birotte denied the motion for a permanent injunction. Judge Birotte held that "the Court is not persuaded that Plaintiffs have provided support for their bare assertion that the Subclasses are still in threat of continuing violations." Judge Birotte reasoned that given its new detainer policy and the November 18, 2018, decision to cancel all active detainers, ICE has evidenced compliance with the summary judgment and that a permanent injunction was unnecessary. 416 F. Supp. 3d 995.
On February 5, 2020, Judge Birotte issued a final judgment resolving all claims regarding the Gonzalez suit. Judge Birotte found in favor of plaintiff and the Probable Cause subclass on their claims that defendants violated the Fourth Amendment by (1) issuing detainers based on probable-cause determinations from unreliable database searches alone and (2) by issuing detainers based on probable-cause determinations from evidence of foreign place of birth and no match in a federal immigration database. Judgment was also entered in favor of plaintiff and the Probable Cause Subclass on their claim that defendants violated the Fourth Amendment by issuing detainers to state and local law enforcement agencies in states that do not expressly authorize civil immigration arrests in state statutes. Judge Birotte found in favor of the plaintiff and the Statutory subclass on their claim that defendants violated 8 U.S.C. § 1357(a)(2) by issuing detainers without either issuing an administrative warrant or determining that a person "'is likely to escape before a warrant can be obtained for [their] arrest.'"
Judge Birotte permanently enjoined the defendants from issuing detainers to the Probable Cause Subclass members based solely on unreliable database searches and from issuing detainers seeking the detention of Probable Cause Subclass members to law enforcement agencies not authorized to make arrests based on detainers only.
On February 14, 2020, the defendants appealed the district court's final judgment regarding the permanent injunctions to the Ninth Circuit (Docket No. 20-55175).
Meanwhile, on February 17, 2020, in the district court, the defendants filed an emergency application to stay the final judgment and permanent injunction pending appeal to the Ninth Circuit. Judge Birotte denied the defendants' application to stay on February 20, 2020. One day later, in the Ninth Circuit, the defendants filed an emergency motion for immediate administrative stay and motion for stay pending appeal, citing irreparable harm to the government caused by the injunction and arguing that a brief stay would not harm the plaintiffs. A Ninth Circuit panel (Circuit Judges William Canby, Ronald Gould, and Paul Watford) denied the immediate administrative stay on February 24, 2020. A week later, on March 2, 2020, the Ninth Circuit panel issued an order granting in part and denying in part the defendants' emergency motion for stay pending appeal. The panel granted the motion to stay regarding the portion of the injunction enjoining defendants from “issuing detainers seeking the detention of Probable Cause Subclass members to law enforcement agencies in states that lack state law permitting state and local law enforcement agencies to make civil immigration arrests based on civil immigration detainers only.” The panel denied the motion to stay in all other respects.
As the Gonzalez trial had concluded, the parties stipulated to de-consolidate Roy and Gonzalez, and the district court ordered the cases de-consolidated on March 18, 2020.
On September 11, 2020, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's permanent injunction decision in Gonzalez. First, the Ninth Circuit panel (Circuit Judges Milan Smith, John Owens, and Bridget Bade) held that the plaintiff had standing to seek prospective injunctive relief when he initially brought the suit, and also upheld certification of the Probable Cause subclass. Second, the court reversed and vacated the injunction against issuing detainers to local law enforcement in states that lack laws allowing local law enforcement to make immigration arrests. It reasoned that the presence or absence of probable cause rather than state law determines whether issuance of a detainer violates the Fourth Amendment. Third, the court reversed and vacated the injunction against issuing detainers solely based on searches of electronic databases to make a probable cause determination because the district court erroneously concluded that databases not designed to establish probable cause were unreliable. The panel found three errors in the district court's ruling on this matter: (1) the district court’s incomplete set of reliability findings concerning the databases at issue; (2) the district court’s legal error in concluding that the databases are unreliable because no database was intended to show probable cause of removability; and (3) the district court’s failure to address whether there was systemic error in ICE’s probable cause determinations based on searches of the databases. The court remanded this issue for the district court's reconsideration on these three grounds. Fourth, the court held that the Fourth Amendment required a prompt probable cause determination before a neutral magistrate, reversing the district court's conclusion that this requirement did not apply to immigration detainers. 975 F.3d 788. Additionally, the plaintiffs had also filed a cross-appeal on a summary judgment issue, and this panel reversed the district court; because the Fourth Amendment required probable cause to seize or detain an individual for a civil immigration offense, the Fourth Amendment required a prompt probable cause determination by a neutral and detached magistrate to justify continued detention pursuant to an immigration detainer.
On April 19, 2021 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals judgment took effect and the case began remand proceedings. As of September 22, 2021 this case is ongoing back in the district court.
Ava Morgenstern (11/28/2017)
Caitlin Kierum (11/22/2019)
Hannah Shilling (9/22/2021)
For PACER's information on parties and their attorneys, see: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/4150220/parties/gerardo-gonzalez-v-immigration-and-customs-enforcement/
Amdur, Spencer E (California)
Arulanantham, Ahilan T (California)
Atkinson, Theodore W (California)
Attorney, OIL-DCS Trial (California)
Arnett, Richard L. (California)
Bade, Bridget Shelton (Arizona)
Birotte, Andre Jr. (California)
Mumm, Frederick F. (California)
O'Connell, Beverly Reid (California)
Smith, Milan Dale Jr. (California)
Last updated Nov. 30, 2023, 10:27 a.m.
State / Territory: California
Filing Date: June 19, 2013
Case Ongoing: Yes
Plaintiffs are two US citizens subject to an ICE immigration detainer, and detained in ICE custody following their criminal detention, despite not being removable. The certified class consists of all persons subject to ICE detainers in the Central District of California, who are not in removal proceedings and have not been ordered removed.
Public Interest Lawyer: Yes
Filed Pro Se: No
Class Action Sought: Yes
Class Action Outcome: Granted
Causes of Action:
Prevailing Party: Plaintiff
Nature of Relief:
Source of Relief:
Order Duration: 2020 - None
Jails, Prisons, Detention Centers, and Other Institutions:
Type of Facility: