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Summaries of Recent Immigration-Related District Court Cases

Over the last few months I had the opportunity to work with some fantastic immigration attorneys across the Southeast United States on a collaborative project. Our goal was to find, review and summarize every immigration-related and useful District Court and Circuit Court Case from the Eleventh Circuit and put them together in a newsletter. This was an enjoyable and educational experience. We expect to send out this newsletter every quarter and it will contain published and unpublished District Court cases from Florida, Alabama and Georgia and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

This would not be possible without the hard work of our multi-state team composed of Marshall Cohen, Roberta Cooper, Bruce Buchanan and myself, John Gihon. Here are the summaries of the District Court Cases for Alabama, Georgia and Florida. If anyone reading this newsletter has any suggestions, please contact me at John@slgattorneys.com or our editor, Bruce Buchanan at bbuchanan@visalaw.com

District Court Decisions

Daniel v. Castro, et al., 15-21828-CIV (S.D. Fla. Sept. 30, 2015)

Mr. Daniel brought a civil action against the USCIS in an effort to force them to issue a new decision clarifying the reasons for denying his I-485 Application to Adjust Status. USCIS denied Mr. Daniel’s I-485 and Motion to Reconsider as a matter of discretion, after finding him statutorily ineligible for the relief he sought. The District Court dismissed Mr. Daniel’s case pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) finding that they lacked jurisdiction to review the discretionary decision of USCIS. The Court determined that while they retained jurisdiction to review purely legal questions regarding USCIS’s decision, they lacked jurisdiction over questions that related to the agency’s discretion. The Court cited to useful verbiage from a decision of the Third Circuit, “[it] is important to distinguish carefully between a denial of an application to adjust status, and a determination that an immigrant is legally ineligible for adjustment of status.” Pinho v. Gonzalez, 432 F.3d 193, 203 (3d Cir. 2005).

Ebron v. ICE, 3:12-CV-272-J-32JBT (M.D. Fla. Oct. 5, 2015)

Mr. Ebron brought suit against the ICE under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Mr. Ebron, who was convicted at trial in Florida state criminal Court, challenged ICE’s decision to deport a witness whom he believed would have helped his criminal case. The District Court dismissed Mr. Ebron’s action citing lack of jurisdiction to review the discretionary decision by ICE to remove a person. The Court suggested that the proper vehicle for Mr. Ebron to seek redress regarding ICE’s action would be through his direct appeal in state court or through a subsequent Habeas action in federal court.

Samuels v. Demerin, et al., 4:14-cv-2106-KOB (N.D. Ala. Oct. 6, 2015)

Mr. Samuels brought a Bivens action for damages against the Field Medical Coordinator over the Etowah County Jail, where Mr. Samuels was detained by ICE. The District Court dismissed the action, determining that the Federal Tort Claims Act provided for absolute immunity to Public Health Service officers acting within the scope of their employment. The Court found that Mr. Barlow, the Field Medical Coordinator over the Etowah County Jail, was a Public Health Service officer, and therefore entitled to immunity. The Court concluded that The Federal Tort Claims Act was the sole vehicle by which Mr. Samuels could bring suit against Mr. Barlow.

Cervantes v. Atkinson, et al., 14-CV-24553-GAYLES (S.D. Fla. Oct. 28, 2015)

Mr. Cervantes brought this action to request the District Court apply the doctrine of res judicata to a USCIS decision denying his Application for Naturalization. Mr. Cervantes was ordered excluded by an Immigration Judge in 1994 after he arrived in the United States under false pretenses through the Transit without Visa Program. The Government originally charged him with fraud due to his entry into the U.S. with false documents, but removed that charge prior to his order of exclusion. Then, in 1997, Mr. Cervantes adjusted his status to that of a lawful permanent resident under the Cuban Adjustment Act. USCIS determined that Mr. Cervantes was never lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as is required for naturalization. USCIS denied his Naturalization application finding that he committed fraud during his 1993 entry and he was inadmissible at the time he adjusted in 1997 and did not seek nor was he granted a fraud waiver. Mr. Cervantes asked the Court to order USCIS to apply the doctrine of res judicata to prevent USCIS from finding that he never lawfully adjusted status. He argued that because USCIS’s predecessor, legacy INS, removed the fraud charge during exclusion proceedings, they should be barred from raising that as a grounds to prevent naturalization. However, the Court found that res judicata did not apply because the legal standards and burdens were different for exclusion proceedings and a naturalization application; therefore, USCIS was not barred from determining that he was never lawfully admitted for permanent residence.

Adams v. Whiddon, et al., 2:13-cv-192-FtM-29CM (M.D. Fla. Nov. 18, 2015)

The petitioner sought a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the District Court to secure release from ICE detention through an individualized bond hearing. The petitioner was subject to mandatory detention pursuant to INA ยง 236(c). While the petition was pending, he was released from detention and removed to Jamaica. Without addressing the substance of the argument, the District Court found that deportation mooted the claims as each was released from custody. See Soliman v. United States, 296 F.3d 1237 (11th Cir. 2002).

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