Press Release

Cooley and Co-Counsel Secure Due Process Protections for Youth in Federal Immigration Custody

September 7, 2022

Palo Alto – September 7, 2022 – Cooley, along with the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the National Center for Youth Law, and UC Davis School of Law’s Immigration Law Clinic, secured a victory for the plaintiffs – thousands of children in federal immigration custody – in Lucas R. v. Azar. On August 30, 2022, the US District Court for the Central District of California issued a preliminary injunction requiring the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to provide critical due process rights guaranteed by federal law. Lawyers Summer Wynn, Michael McMahon, Alix Mayhugh and Jamie Robertson led the Cooley team.

The injunction, which takes effect 60 days from August 30 and remains in effect until a final order resolves the case, safeguards the rights of youth in federal immigration custody to appeal the denial of their safe and timely release to close family members. The injunction also ensures that youth in ORR custody will be able to appeal ORR’s decision to place them in restrictive and locked facilities, such as juvenile detention centers, residential treatment programs and “medium secure” facilities.

Along with enshrining these rights, the injunction requires procedural protections for youth that have never been afforded, including the right to counsel in appealing placement and release decisions, the right to inspect the evidence ORR used in making its decision, the right to present witnesses, and the right to present a challenge to a neutral decision-maker. The government also must justify its placement decisions by clear and convincing evidence.

“The district court’s injunction will have a tremendous impact on the lives of youth in immigration custody and will lead to more children being safely released to their families faster and fewer children suffering in restrictive placements,” McMahon said. “The district court’s summary judgment order in March 2022 affirmed the constitutional rights of these youth, and this injunction lays out the important ways in which ORR must remedy its practices to ensure due process protections for children in their custody.”

The order follows a lengthy legal fight that began in June 2018. In November 2018, five separate classes were certified, and the case survived a motion to dismiss. Most recently, in March 2022, the court partially granted the plaintiffs’ motion of summary judgment. The plaintiffs in the case are still litigating claims to protect the constitutional rights of youth in ORR custody who are placed in or kept in restrictive facilities because of their disabilities, and youth who are prescribed psychotropic medication while in custody.

About Cooley LLP

Cooley partners with local and national legal services organizations to represent hundreds of pro bono clients annually. Through its pro bono work, Cooley empowers individuals to seek justice and opportunity, and provides nonprofit organizations the tools they need to effect change and support underserved communities.

Cooley has 1,500 lawyers across 17 offices in the United States, Asia and Europe, and a total workforce of 3,300.

This content is provided for general informational purposes only, and your access or use of the content does not create an attorney-client relationship between you or your organization and Cooley LLP, Cooley (UK) LLP, or any other affiliated practice or entity (collectively referred to as “Cooley”). By accessing this content, you agree that the information provided does not constitute legal or other professional advice. This content is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction and you should not act or refrain from acting based on this content. This content may be changed without notice. It is not guaranteed to be complete, correct or up to date, and it may not reflect the most current legal developments. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Do not send any confidential information to Cooley, as we do not have any duty to keep any information you provide to us confidential. This content may be considered Attorney Advertising and is subject to our legal notices.