NWIRP is dedicated to the systemic change of immigration laws, and consequently dedicates significant resources to impact litigation. During the last decade we have positively affected many important cases with implications for national immigration laws.

To respond to the growth of immigration appeals at the Federal and Ninth District Courts, we increased our focus in this area by establishing a new legal unit in 2005. At any one time, the Impact Litigation Unit has several cases pending before the federal courts. NWIRP was invited by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to speak at a roundtable discussion on how to deal with the Circuit's large volume of immigration cases.

District Court Grants Preliminary Approval of Settlement Agreement and Amends Class Definition in Duran-Gonzales

On July 21, 2014, the District Court issued a final approval of the settlement agreement in Duran Gonzalez v. DHS.  Duran Gonzalez is a Ninth Circuit-wide class action regarding eligibility for adjustment of status under INA § 245(i) along with an accompanying I-212 waiver application for individuals who previously were removed and subsequently entered the country without admission.  The settlement will allow a group of nearly 1,500 people the opportunity to remain in the United States with their families.

In a 2007 decision in this suit, Duran Gonzales v. DHS, 508 F.3d 1227 (9th Cir. 2007), the Ninth Circuit held that individuals who previously were removed are ineligible for adjustment of status with an I-212 waiver.  However, the Ninth Circuit subsequently remanded the case to the district court for consideration of plaintiffs’ retroactivity claims.  See Duran Gonzales v. DHS, 712 F.3d 1271 (9th Cir. 2013).  The settlement provides remedies for class members with retroactivity claims.  The amended class definition (i.e., a description of who is covered by the agreement) is set out on pages 3-5 of the settlement agreement.

After 8 years of litigation that included three separate published opinions from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and partners achieved a victory that will allow hundreds of individuals the opportunity to reopen their previously denied applications for permanent residence so that they can remain in the United States with their families. The settlement will also allow individuals in the class who have already been removed from the United States the opportunity to submit applications through the corresponding U.S. consulates. 

NWIRP teamed with the American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer’s Guild, the Law Offices of Van Der Hout, Brigagliano and Nightingale, and the Law Office of Stacy Tolchin in bringing this case.

Click here to see the final order, click here to see the final settlement, click here to see the Q&A about class definitions and remedies for class members, and click here to view a previously recorded settlement agreement webinar

NWIRP & Allies Successfully Represent Nationwide Class of Asylum Applicants Seeking Employment Authorization

NWIRP and the American Immigration Council, along with co-counsel from the Seattle law firm Gibbs Houston Pauw and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, filed a nationwide class action on behalf of asylum applicants who were prevented from obtaining employment authorization. The complaint challenged widespread problems with the “asylum clock”- the system government agencies use to determine when immigrants who have applied for asylum may obtain permission to work lawfully in the United States. Ultimately, Defendants agreed to a settlement with the nation-wide certified class, which was approved by federal District Judge Jones.  A.B.T. v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,  2013 WL 5913323 (W.D.Wash.) (W.D.Wash. 2013).

Among the benefits of the settlement: asylum seekers with Immigration Court cases may now present their asylum applications to the Court immediately, without having to wait months for an initial hearing before an Immigration Judge; certain asylum seekers whose cases have been pending on appeal will now be able to obtain work authorization when the Board of Immigration Appeals remands their case to an Immigration Judge; asylum seekers and their attorneys will be provided with more effective notice so that they do not inadvertently accept hearing dates which frustrate obtaining a work authorization. In addition, even under the “expedited” process asylum seekers and their attorneys will be provided at least 45 days from the date they file their asylum application in court to prepare for an individual hearing.

The successful conclusion of this lawsuit helps bring clarity and accountability to a problem that has plagued the asylum process for decades and has impacted thousands of immigrants trapped in a cycle of delay and denial of the right to work.

NWIRP Fights for the Rights of Families to Stay Together

NWIRP continues as lead counsel, representing a certified class of individuals in the ninth circuit  fighting for the right to remain with their family members.  The federal district court granted class-wide injunctive relief.  Gonzales v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Sec., 239 F.R.D. 620 (W.D.Wash. 2006).  The injunctive relief was subsequently vacated proceedings were remanded based on the Court’s determination that is must defer to a subsequent, contrary agency interpretation of the statute. Gonzales v. Department of Homeland Sec., 508 F.3d 1227 (9th Cir. 2007).  After again appealing the remanded proceedings, the Court of Appeals originally ruled that it would not consider the unfair retroactive impact of the change in law. Duran Gonzales v. DHS, 659 F.3d 930 (9th Cir. 2011).

However, after filing a petition for rehearing along with obtaining rehearing en banc in Garfias-Rodriguez v. Holder, 702 F.3d 504 (9th Cir. 2012) (see below), the Court of Appeals issued a new decision, vacating its prior ruling and remanding to district court to determine whether class should be modified to respond to retroactivity arguments. Duran Gonzales v. DHS, 702 F.3d 504 (9th Cir. 2013).

In Garfias-Rodriguez v. Holder, 672 F.3d 1125 (9th Cir. 2012) NWIRP successfully petitioned the Court to withdraw its prior panel decision and rehear the case en banc. NWIRP represented the petitioner before the en banc court in Garfias-Rodriguez v. Holder, 702 F.3d 504 (9th Cir. 2012).  The Court ultimately denied the petition for rehearing, but nonetheless implemented a new retroactivity test put forward by counsel for NWIRP.  The implementation of the new test served as the basis for the Court reversing its prior decision in Duran-Gonzalez as noted above.

Federal District Court Grants Permanent Injunctive Relief Providing Counsel at Government Expense for Class of Detained Persons in Removal Proceedings who do not have the mental competence to Represent themselves in Court

NWIRP serves as co-counsel in Franco-Gonzales, et al. v. Holder, et al., CV 10-02211, in the Central District of California, where the Court granted class certification and issued a permanent injunction, ordering DHS and DOJ to appoint defenders to all detained individuals in Washington, California and Arizona who have a mental illness or disability rendering them incapable of representing themselves in detention or removal proceedings. Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, 2013 WL 3674492 (C.D.Cal. 2013).

In March of 2010, the ACLU and Public Counsel in Los Angeles filed suits in U.S. District Courts in Southern California on behalf of two men who, because of their profound mental disabilities, had spent years in immigration detention without legal assistance to fight their cases.  They were released just days after the suit was filed.

The groups then obtained the assistance of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, the law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell and Mental Health Advocacy Services Inc., in moving to transform the case into a class action on behalf of detainees with mental disabilities.  The lawsuit alleged federal officials have deprived these immigrants of their Constitutional right to due process and violated federal anti-discrimination laws designed to protect people with disabilities.

The Court initially granted motions for preliminary injunctive relief on behalf of the named plaintiffs.  See, e.g., Franco-Gonzales v. Holder, 767 F.Supp.2d 1034 (C.D. Cal 2010); 828 F.Supp.2d 1133 (C.D.Cal., May 04, 2011) (orders granting preliminary injunctive relief for named plaintiffs).  Thereafter, the court certified a class of similarly situated individuals in Washington, California and Arizona. Finally, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment, requiring the government to assign qualified legal representatives for class members. Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, 2013 WL 3674492 (C.D.Cal. 2013).  DOJ has responded by announcing a plan to provide appointed counsel nationwide to similarly situated individuals.

NWIRP & Allies Prevail in Action on Behalf of Class of Lawful Permanent Residents Denied Naturalization by Prolonged Government Delays

NWIRP and the ACLU successfully represented a district wide class certified by federal court, challenging the government’s obstruction of hundreds of applicants seeking naturalization.  Some of the plaintiffs had applications cases pending for up to four years.  Judge Pechman granted plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. Roshandel v. Chertoff, 554 F.Supp.2d 1194 (W.D.Wash. 2008). Thereafter she denied Defendants’ motion to dismiss, leading to an eventual settlement where government agreed to complete adjudication of all 450 delayed applications prior to registration deadline for 2008 elections. Roshandel v. Chertoff, 2008 WL 1969646 (W.D.Wash. 2008). 

Click here for a list of the published decisions in which NWIRP has prevailed.