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Gonzalez-Garcia v. U.S. Attorney General

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Orlando Division

June 26, 2018




         Before the Court's is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Doc. 29 (“Motion”). Plaintiffs oppose. (Doc. 32.) On review, the Motion is due to be granted.

         I. Background

         Plaintiffs initiated this action on February 9, 2018 against Defendants alleging violations of their constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs are minor U.S. citizen-children whose parents are aliens with final orders of removal whose applications to cancel removal under section 240A(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b) (“Applications”) were denied. (Doc. 1, p. 2.)

         As Plaintiffs are minors, their parents are representing them here. (Id. at 5-7.) Luis Manuel Gonzalez-Garcia is a national and citizen of Mexico. (Id. at 5.) He entered the U.S. around April 1995, without inspection, through Arizona and has three children: co-Plaintiffs M.G. born in 2010, L.F.G.R. born in 2006, and J.M.G. born in 2002. (Id.) Angel Alpizar-Sanches is also a national and citizen of Mexico who entered the U.S. through Phoenix, Arizona around March 1998 without inspection. (Id. at 6.) He has four children: co-Plaintiffs A.A. born in 2004, R.A. born in 2008, A.J.A. born in 2010, and C.A. born in 2014. (Id.) Last, Esmeralda Gonzalez-Cano is a national and citizen of Mexico who entered the U.S. through Hidalgo, Texas around August 1994 without inspection. (Id. at 6.) She has four children: co-Plaintiffs R.A.G. born in 1998, E.D.G. born in 2000, J.A.G. born in 2002, and B.G. born in 2005. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs take issue with the INA's administrative process for evaluating the Applications, claiming: (1) it violates both procedural and substantive due process because Plaintiffs are not given notice or the opportunity to present evidence at their parents' hearings (id. ¶ VI. (“Due Process Claim”)); (2) its “exceptional and extremely unusual” hardship standard violates equal protection (id. ¶ VII. (“Equal Protection Claim”)); and (3) the standard is unconstitutionally vague as-applied to Plaintiffs (id. ¶ VIII (“Vagueness Claim”)). They seek declaratory and injunctive relief that “requir[es] [Defendants] . . . to refrain from applying the current regulatory scheme implementing Section 240A(b) of the INA against [Plaintiffs] until its constitutional deficiencies have been corrected, [Plaintiffs] have been provided a meaningful opportunity to be heard, and this action has reached its final adjudication and conclusion, ” and that “preserve[s] the status quo and preclude[s] the removal of [Plaintiffs'] parents from the United States and requir[es] [Defendants] . . . to refrain from any action to initiate or continue the removal [of] [Plaintiffs'] parents . . . .” (Id. ¶¶ X.5-6.)

         With the Complaint, Plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction (Doc. 2), which the Court denied without prejudice (Doc. 5). Plaintiffs renewed these motions (Docs. 6, 7); the Court again denied the motion for a temporary restraining order but took under advisement the preliminary injunction motion (Doc. 9 (“PI Motion”)). Both parties submitted briefing and evidence (Docs. 7, 8, 14, 15, 16), and the Court held a hearing on March 13, 2018 where the PI Motion was orally denied (Doc. 17.) The Court then summarized its findings in a short, written order: Plaintiffs had not met their burden of showing a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. (Doc. 18, p. 3.)

         Defendants then filed the instant Motion, seeking dismissal of this action with prejudice under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 29.) With Plaintiffs' Response (Doc. 32), the matter is ripe.

         II. Legal Standards

         Under the minimum pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiffs must provide short and plain statements of their claims with simple and direct allegations set out in numbered paragraphs and distinct counts. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a), 8(d), & 10(b). If a complaint does not comport with these minimum pleading requirements, if it is plainly barred, or if it otherwise fails to set forth a plausible claim, then it is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6). See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 672, 678-79 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).

         Plausible claims must be founded on sufficient “factual content” to allow “the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. In assessing the sufficiency of factual content and the plausibility of a claim, courts draw on their “judicial experience and common sense” in considering: (1) the exhibits attached to the complaint; (2) matters that are subject to judicial notice; and (3) documents that are undisputed and central to a plaintiff's claim. See id.; Reese v. Ellis, Painter, Ratterree & Adams, LLP, 678 F.3d 1211, 1215-16 (11th Cir. 2012); Parham v. Seattle Serv. Bureau, Inc., 224 F.Supp.3d 1268, 1271 (M.D. Fla. 2016). Courts do not consider other matters outside the four corners of the complaint, and they must: (1) disregard conclusory allegations, bald legal assertions, and formulaic recitation of the elements of a claim; (2) accept the truth of well-pled factual allegations; and (3) view well-pled facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Hayes v. U.S. Bank Nat'l Ass'n, 648 Fed.Appx. 883, 887 (11th Cir. 2016);[1] Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002).

         III. Analysis[2]

         It is well-settled that lawfully removing a parent does not deprive a U.S. citizen child of a constitutional right. See Perdido v. I.N.S., 420 F.2d 1179 (5th Cir. 1969); Gonzalez-Cuevas v. I.N.S., 515 F.2d 1222, 1224 (5th Cir. 1975) (“Legal orders of deportation do not violate any constitutional right of citizen children . . . .”).[3] (See also Doc. 15, pp. 4-5 (Government's response citing cases from other circuits).) Furthermore, “each court that has addressed the issue at the heart of this case-whether a removal order against an alien parent violates the constitutional rights of a citizen child-has held that removal is not constitutionally infirm, even if that removal constitutes the ‘constructive' or ‘de facto' deportation of a citizen child.” See Coleman v. United States, 454 F.Supp.2d 757, 767, 767 n.11 (N.D. Ill. 2006) (comprehensively surveying case law which does not recognize a constitutional violation when U.S. citizens' parents are removed).

         Thus, it is well-established that removal itself does not establish a constitutional violation. But Plaintiffs do not sweepingly make this claim. Rather, they seek to challenge the constitutionality of how the Government arrives at the decision to not suspend deportation proceedings against individuals with children who are U.S. citizens. (Doc. 32, p. 2.) Specifically, they challenge the ...

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