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Case Name A.B. v. Morgan IM-DC-0089
Docket / Court 1:20-cv-00846-RJL ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Case Summary
This case is about whether untrained Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents can make asylum determinations in place of trained career Asylum Officers. The district court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and preliminarily enjoined the defendants from permitting CBP ... read more >
This case is about whether untrained Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents can make asylum determinations in place of trained career Asylum Officers. The district court granted the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and preliminarily enjoined the defendants from permitting CBP agents to conduct asylum interviews or make credible fear determinations pending a ruling on the merits in this case.

Plaintiffs File Complaint Challenging "Credible Fear" Interviews by CBP
On March 27, 2020, the plaintiffs, a group of mothers and children from Honduras, Ecuador, and Mexico seeking asylum in the United States, filed this lawsuit in the District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued the Acting Commissioner of CBP, the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, the Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the Attorney General. The plaintiffs alleged that a January 30, 2020 Memo permitting CBP agents to conduct “credible fear” interviews for asylum seekers (1) was issued in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA), (2) violated the Homeland Security Act's delegation of asylum authority to USCIS, (3) violated the Immigration and Nationality Act's requirements for asylum procedures, (4) was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), (5) violated the Fifth Amendment, and (6) violated the Convention Against Torture’s protection against refoulment. The plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief for themselves and all future asylum seekers from asylum adjudications performed by the CBP. The plaintiffs also sought litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees. The case was assigned to Judge Richard Leon.

Background on "Credible Fear" Interviews & January 2020 Memo
Since 1996, prior to a hearing before an immigration judge, noncitizens seeking asylum must first conduct an interview with a trained Asylum Officer who determines the reasonableness of the noncitizen’s fear of persecution. Beginning in June 2019, the Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) signed an agreement granting CBP officers the permission to conduct asylum interviews and make credible fear determinations in place of trained CIS Asylum Officers. In January 2020, USCIS and CBP renewed this agreement. The plaintiffs were each issued a negative credible fear determination by the new policy, which automatically triggered removal from the United States.

Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order
The plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and administrative stay on April 1, 2020. Judge Leon temporarily enjoined the defendants from removing plaintiffs and held a telephonic hearing the next day. After the hearing, Judge Leon administratively stayed the removal of plaintiffs from United States to preserve the status quo and enjoined the defendants from removing each of the plaintiffs pending Judge Leon's ruling on a forthcoming motion for a preliminary injunction. Shortly after, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction on April 13, 2020.

District Court Grants Motion for Preliminary Injunction
On August 31, 2020, Judge Leon granted plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction pending a ruling on the merits of the case. 2020 WL 5107548. Judge Leon found that as a result of limited training and inherently adversarial nature of CBP agents, use of these agents to conduct interviews likely violated the Immigration and Nationality Act. Additionally, Judge Leon found the potential of irreparable harm to plaintiffs in absence of injunctive relief and ceased implementation of the agreement that permitted their removal from the United States. Under the preliminary injunction, the defendants were enjoined from removing the plaintiffs. In addition, they were preliminarily enjoined from continuing to implement the January 2020 Memorandum of Agreement or otherwise permitting CBP agents to conduct asylum interviews or make credible fear determinations.

As of October 14, the preliminary injunction remains in effect and the case awaits a trial on the merits.

Andrew Pierce - 10/14/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Immigration/Border
Asylum - procedure
Border police
Deportation - procedure
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA)
Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Defendant(s) Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Attorney General
Chief of the Asylum Division of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Plaintiff Description Four mothers and seven children from Latin American countries seeking asylum based on fear of persecution and torture.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 03/27/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  A.B.-B., et al. v. Morgan, et al.
Constitutional Accountability Center
Date: Aug. 31, 2020
By: Constitutional Accountability Center
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  A.B.-B. v. Morgan
Wordpress
Date: Jun. 24, 2020
By: Hold CBP Accountable
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
D.D.C.
09/11/2020
1:20-cv-00846
IM-DC-0089-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
D.D.C.
03/27/2020
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 3]
IM-DC-0089-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
08/29/2020
Order [ECF# 33]
IM-DC-0089-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
D.D.C.
08/31/2020
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 32] (2020 WL 5107548)
IM-DC-0089-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Leon, Richard J. (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-0001 | IM-DC-0089-0003 | IM-DC-0089-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Carpenter, Julie (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-0002 | IM-DC-0089-9000
Frazelle, Brian Rene (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-9000
Gorod, Brianne J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-9000
Wydra, Elizabeth B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Carilli, Joseph F. Jr. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-9000
Cutri-Kohart, Rebecca (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-9000
Hair, Christopher Charles (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-9000
Molen, Kathleene A. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-DC-0089-9000

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