AILF Press Release on AILA v. Reno


U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has dismissed the complaints in AILA, et al. v. Reno; Wood, et al. v. Reno, et al.; and Liberians United for Peace and Democracy, et al. v. Reno, et al., the three cases which challenged INS implementation of "expedited removal" legislation in IIRIRA.

In a 64-page decision, Judge Sullivan ruled against the plaintiffs on jurisdiction, standing to sue, and all substantive claims, and found nothing in any of the complaints that overcame the INS’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted.

The AILA v. Reno complaint, initially filed in March 1997, alleged that the government had improperly promulgated the regulations implementing IIRIRA. Judge Sullivan had issued a preliminary injunction against the regulations, and later consolidated the case for purposes of argument with Wood v. Reno and the Liberians United case.

Wood, filed on behalf of AILF, challenged implementation of expedited removal as it affected entrants with facially valid visas to enter the U.S. Liberians United, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, similarly challenged implementation of expedited removal provisions affecting asylum seekers. All three cases included a number of individual as well as organizational plaintiffs.

On jurisdictional grounds, Judge Sullivan dismissed all the individual plaintiffs but two, because their causes of action had arisen more than 60 days after the law’s effective date; IIRIRA explicitly barred challenges to the statute after that date, and Judge Sullivan held that he was bound by that statutory limit.

All organizational plaintiffs were dismissed for lack of standing to sue, largely on the ground that actual harm to the organizations or their members was speculative and vague; Judge Sullivan’s interpretation of current case law on organizational standing to sue was quite restrictive.

As to the two remaining individual plaintiffs, Judge Sullivan denied arguments that the regulations violated IIRIRA by holding to a standard of deference to agency interpretations. He then denied constitutional claims by holding that the two remaining plaintiffs did not have sufficient ties to the U.S. to be able to raise constitutional claims.

For plaintiffs, the only positive note in the decision was the Judge’s aside that he was "troubled by the effects of Congress’s decision to immunize the unwritten actions of an agency from judicial review," and he "admonished" the INS to comply with its own regulations and policies and treat aliens fairly.

Plaintiffs’ counsel are in the process of deciding whether or not to appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. For further information contact Roy Petty at AILF, 202-216-2428.

© 1999, American Immigration Lawyers Association

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 98082859.