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Case Name Vangala v. USCIS IM-CA-0172
Docket / Court 4:20-cv-08143 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Special Collection Trump Immigration Enforcement Order Challenges
Attorney Organization Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)
Case Summary
On November 19, 2020, three noncitizens filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) on behalf of themselves and all ... read more >
On November 19, 2020, three noncitizens filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California against the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) on behalf of themselves and all individuals who had been or would be harmed by a USCIS policy that required applicants for immigration benefits to fill in every response field on their applications, even fields that did not apply to them. This “blank space” policy led USCIS to reject thousands of applications. Some rejected applications had only one blank response field. Others included the phrase “not applicable” in lieu of “N/A,” another policy violation. USCIS also failed to notify applicants when their applications were rejected. Consequently, many benefit seekers––including abandoned and abused children, survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, and asylum seekers––missed deadlines and lost the ability to obtain benefits for themselves, their children, and other family members.

Represented by National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA), Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP), and private counsel, the plaintiffs sued USCIS and DHS under the Administrative Procedure Act and the Declaratory Judgment Act. The government allegedly violated the APA by failing to provide a reasoned explanation for the blank space policy, failing to follow proper procedures when adopting the policy, and defying USCIS regulations. The plaintiffs argued that the policy served no legitimate purpose and was adopted only to prevent vulnerable immigrants from obtaining immigration benefits. Per the complaint, the plaintiffs sought an injunction prohibiting USCIS from enforcing the policy and requiring USCIS to notify individuals whose applications were rejected as a result of it. The plaintiffs also moved for class certification the same day that the complaint was filed. The case was assigned to Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr.

On January 14, 2021, Judge Gilliam, Jr., granted a stipulation by both parties to temporarily halt the proceedings to allow pending settlement talks to continue. The stay was extended on February 18 and again on March 25.

On July 19, 2021, the parties filed a joint motion asking the court to approve their settlement agreement. The agreement, which was attached to the motion as an exhibit, provided that USCIS had rescinded the No Blank Space Rejection Policy as of December 23, 2020, would allow people who were rejected under the policy to resubmit for the same benefit within a year of the date the settlement became effective, would review documents that were initially rejected and resubmitted as having been submitted on the original submission date, and would notify people rejected under the policy of their ability to resubmit for the denied benefits. The court approved the settlement agreement on July 20, 2021, and the case was closed on August 10, 2021.

Becca Rogers - 12/20/2020
Ben Marvin-Vanderryn - 10/13/2021


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Immigration/Border
Admission - procedure
Asylum - procedure
Visas - procedures
Work authorization - procedures
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
Mandamus, 28 U.S.C. § 1361
Defendant(s) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description Three noncitizens on behalf of themselves and all individuals who had been or would be harmed by a who were harmed by USCIS's "blank space"/"rejection" policy
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Mooted before ruling
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Filed 11/19/2020
Case Closing Year 2021
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Featured Issue: USCIS’s Blank Space Policy
https://www.aila.org/advo-media/issues/all/featured-issue-usciss-blank-space-policy
Date: Dec. 21, 2020
By: American Immigration Lawyers Association
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  NILA’s Affirmative Litigation Docket
https://immigrationlitigation.org/impact-litigation/
Date: Nov. 19, 2020
By: National Immigration Litigation Alliance
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Re: Implementing the President's Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Policies (Final, 2/20/2017)
dhs.gov
Date: Feb. 20, 2017
By: DHS Secretary John Kelly (United States Department of Homeland Security)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Re: Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest (Final, 2/20/2017)
dhs.gov
Date: Feb. 20, 2017
By: DHS Secretary John Kelly (United States Department of Homeland Security)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Executive Order 13767: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements
Federal Register
Date: Jan. 27, 2017
By: President Donald Trump (Office of the President)
Citation: 82 Fed. Reg. Presidential Documents 8793 (Jan. 27, 2017)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

  Executive Order 13768: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States
Federal Register
Date: Jan. 25, 2017
By: President Donald Trump (Office of the President)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal.
08/10/2021
4:20-cv-08143
IM-CA-0172-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Cal.
11/19/2020
Class Action Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief [ECF# 1]
IM-CA-0172-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
07/19/2021
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 43-1]
IM-CA-0172-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
07/20/2021
Joint Motion for Approval of Settlement: Order [ECF# 44]
IM-CA-0172-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Gilliam, Haywood Stirling Jr. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adams, Matthew (Matt) Hyrum (Washington) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0001 | IM-CA-0172-0002 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Adams, Margot (Washington) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0001 | IM-CA-0172-0002 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Beasley, Helen Elizabeth (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0001 | IM-CA-0172-0002 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Kenney, Mary (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0001 | IM-CA-0172-0002 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Korthuis, Aaron (Washington) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0001 | IM-CA-0172-0002 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Lieu, Tiffany (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0001 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Nightingale, Zachary M. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0001 | IM-CA-0172-0002 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Realmuto, Trina (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0001 | IM-CA-0172-0002 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hinds, Stephanie (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0003
Kurlan, Elizabeth D. (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-0002 | IM-CA-0172-0003 | IM-CA-0172-9000
Winslow, Sara (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0172-9000

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