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Haughton v. Crawford

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

October 7, 2016

MYRON ANTHONY HAUGHTON, Petitioner
v.
JEFFREY CRAWFORD, et al.. Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LEONIE M. BRINKEMA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Petitioner Myron Anthony Haughton has been held by the Department of Homeland Security in an immigration detention facility since October 5, 2015. CompL, [Dkt. 1] ¶ 1. Due to a series of burglary convictions earned while he was a teenager, Haughton is subject to mandatory detention pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) while he awaits disposition of his removal proceedings. Id. In June 2016, Haughton petitioned this Court for a writ of habeas corpus, arguing that his prolonged detention violates the constitutional guarantee of due process and requesting an individualized bond hearing. Id. K 2. As of this writing, he has been detained for over one year.

         Before the Court is respondents' Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. 4]. For the reasons that follow, respondents' Motion will be denied, summary judgment will be granted for the petitioner, and respondents will be ordered to hold an individualized bond hearing for petitioner within thirty (30) days.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Haughton entered the United States in August 1999, at the age of eleven. IJ Decision, [Dkt. 1-1] at 2. Before his arrival in the United States, Haughton lived with his father and stepmother in Kingston, Jamaica. Id. His father worked away from home Monday through Friday and his stepmother was physically abusive. Id. When Haughton was eleven, his biological mother visited him in Jamaica and arranged for him to join her in the United States. Id. He entered the United States by illegally impersonating a cousin who had documents permitting him to enter the country. Id. Shortly after arriving, Haughton realized that his mother had invited him to live with her in Maryland so that he would look after her three younger children. Id. at 3. Soon, she too was abusing him. After Haughton's teacher observed his bruises, she notified the authorities and Haughton was sent to live with an aunt. Id. Two years later, when the aunt decided she no longer wanted to care for him, Haughton was returned to his mother. Id. The abuse soon resumed and in 2004, at the age of sixteen, Haughton ran away. Id.

         Shortly thereafter, a number of boys who Haughton had befriended persuaded him to participate in a series of car thefts and burglaries of unoccupied homes. Id. In April 2006, Haughton was arrested on multiple juvenile arrest warrants. Id. at 9; Tine Decl., [Dkt. 5-1] at ¶ 5. He was subsequently charged as an adult for two incidents that occurred in January 2006, shortly after his eighteenth birthday. Tine Decl., [Dkt. 5-1] at ¶ 5. Pending trial, Haughton was held in a juvenile detention facility. IJ Decision, [Dkt. 1-1] at 4. He escaped after one month in the facility by absconding with an employee's car but was apprehended while walking near a friend's house the following week. Id. Haughton ultimately pleaded guilty to the two January 2006 burglaries, specifically one count of Felony Theft and two counts of Felony First Degree Burglary, and was sentenced to five years imprisonment for each. Tine Decl., [Dkt. 5-1] at ¶ 6. The sentences ran concurrently, with three years suspended. Id.; IJ Decision, [Dkt. 1-1] at 4. Haughton served a total of eighteen months before being released on probation. IJ Decision, [Dkt. 1-1] at 4, 15.

         In the ten years since his release, Haughton has "taken visible and concrete steps toward rehabilitation." Id. at 15. He successfully complied with the terms of his probation, worked toward his GED, and became involved with his local church. Id. at 4, 15. In 2007, Haughton began dating Tatiana Barrow. Id- at 4. Like petitioner, she had suffered from an abusive childhood, having been raised in a Russian orphanage after being removed from her parents' home for neglect. When she was fifteen years old, she was adopted by United States citizens. Id. at 5-6. Haughton and Barrow married in 2014. Pet. BIA Appeal, [Dkt. 8-2] at 43. They have two children together, Adelina, age six, and Ayden, age four, both United States citizens. Id. Although Haughton's employment opportunities have been limited by his undocumented status, he has held several jobs.[1] IJ Decision, [Dkt. 1-1] at 4. Before his detention, Haughton was the primary caretaker for his two young children, working with both of them on language, writing, and arithmetic skills. IJ Decision, [Dkt. 1-1] at 12-13.

         On December 23, 2013, Haughton was arrested by Virginia law enforcement based on an outstanding bench warrant for driving without a license and driving on a revoked license in Maryland. Tine Decl., [Dkt. 5-1] ¶ 7. While Haughton was in the custody of Virginia law enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) discovered that he had entered the United States illegally. Id. at ¶ 7-8. On January 9, 2014, Haughton was transferred to ICE custody. Id. at ¶ 9. Based on Haughton's unlawful presence and convictions for burglary and theft, ICE issued a Notice of Intent to Issue Final Administrative Order. Id. Haughton did not contest the charges in the Notice of Intent and ICE issued a Final Administrative Removal Order. Id. Meanwhile, ICE began efforts to secure travel documents for Haughton to return to Jamaica. Id at ¶ 10. On March 31, 2014, Jamaican officials informed ICE that they could not issue travel documents because they were unable to confirm Haughton's Jamaican birth. Id. at ¶ 12. ICE continued to detain Haughton from March to August 2014 while it tried without success to secure the necessary travel documents. Id. at ¶13. On September 5, 2014, Haughton was released from ICE detention and placed on an Order of Supervision. Id. at ¶14. He complied with that Order by reporting to the designated officials as scheduled on October 7, 2014 and March 11, 2015. Id.

         In August 2015, the government secured a copy of Haughton's original Jamaican birth certificate and on September 21, 2015, ICE learned that Jamaica would issue the necessary temporary travel documents for petitioner, which would be valid through the end of October 2015. Id. at ¶ 15-16. On October 5, 2015, ICE took Haughton back into custody as an alien subject to a final order of removal. Resp. Memo., [Dkt. 5] at % 4. While awaiting removal, Haughton was subject to mandatory detention pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) by virtue of his three criminal convictions from 2006. Id. at 2.

         On October 9, 2015, while detained, Haughton applied for permanent residency through his wife, a naturalized United States citizen, by filing a Form 1-130 Petition for Alien Relative. Id. at ¶ 5. On October 13, 2015, Haughton's counsel informed ICE of the application and that Haughton would seek to adjust his status to that of a lawful permanent resident if United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) approved his application. Id. The following day, ICE cancelled the Final Administrative Removal Order and instead issued a Warrant of Arrest and Notice to Appear (NTA) to place Haughton in removal proceedings pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1229. Id. at ¶ 6. The NTA indicated that Haughton was removable as an alien who has been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), and as an alien who has been convicted of two or more offenses for which the aggregate sentence of confinement is five years or more, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(B). Id. ICE has continued to detain Haughton as an alien subject to mandatory detention under 28 U.S.C. § 1226(c). Id. at ¶ 7.

         In November 2015, ICE filed the NTA with the Arlington Immigration Court. Id. at ¶ 8. On December 3, 2015, Haughton appeared for his initial master calendar hearing, where he admitted to the factual allegations in the NTA and conceded the charges of removability. Id. at ¶ 9. The case was continued so that Haughton's counsel could brief the Immigration Judge (IJ) on Haughton's eligibility to adjust his status. Id. At the second master calendar hearing on January 14, 2016, the parties determined that Haughton would be eligible to apply to adjust status if CIS approved the pending 1-130 and the case was reset pending CIS's decision. Id. at ¶ 10. On February 11, 2016, the parties informed the IJ that the 1-130 petition had been approved. Id. at ¶ 11.

         Following the approval of his 1-130 petition, Haughton filed an application for Adjustment of Status pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1255 and a Form 1-601 Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1182(h). Id.[2] A merits hearing was held on March 29, 2016 and, on May 5, 2016, the IJ issued a written decision, in which he found that Haughton had established the "exceptional and extremely unusual" hardship required for perpetrators of dangerous crimes who are attempting to avoid deportation and granted Haughton's requests for both the waiver of inadmissibility and permanent residency. IJ Decision, [Dkt. 1-1] at 15. In reaching this decision, the IJ emphasized the unique emotional hardship that Haughton's deportation would cause his wife, which was accentuated by her traumatic upbringing, as well as the financial debt that she was accumulating during Haughton's detention, which "place[d] her family's housing in jeopardy." Id. at 12-13. The IJ also recognized the burden born by Haughton's children. As the IJ explained, "Based on the unsustainable financial situation in the [petitioner's] household, the young ages of the children, the [petitioner's] special role as the fulltime, primary caretaker and teacher for them while their mother works, and the adverse psychological and developmental effects they have been displaying since the [petitioner's] detention, the Court finds that the children would suffer... exceptional and extremely unusual [hardship] upon the [petitioner's] removal." Id. at 13-14. Observing that Haughton has "taken visible and concrete steps toward rehabilitation and worked to become a positive role model for his children, " the IJ concluded that discretionary relief was warranted. Id. at 14.

         ICE filed a timely Notice of Appeal with the Bureau of Immigration Appeals (BLA). Compl., [Dkt. 1] ¶ 17. The BIA established July 12, 2016 as the briefing deadline. Resp. Memo., [Dkt. 5] at 7-8. ICE filed its brief on July 11, 2016, and Haughton's counsel received a three-week extension upon request and filed on August 2, 2016. Id. at 10-11.

         While awaiting resolution of ICE's appeal, Haughton sought bond. On June 8, 2016, he filed the pending petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Compl., [Dkt. 1]. He also filed a request for bond with the Immigration Court the following week. Resp. Memo., [Dkt. 5] at 11. DHS opposed the bond motion and, on July 8, 2016, the IJ denied Haughton's motion on the grounds that there was no final order and Haughton remained subject to mandatory detention. Id. One month later, in response to petitioner's habeas petition, respondents filed their motion for summary judgment. [Dkt. 4].

         II. DISCUSSION

         The parties do not dispute the relevant facts, therefore the sole issue in this habeas petition is a question of law: whether petitioner's prolonged, mandatory detention under § 1226(c) without receiving an individualized bond hearing violates the constitutional guarantee of due process. Although several courts in this jurisdiction have summarily dismissed similarly styled claims by holding that they are barred by the Supreme Court's decision in Demore v. Kim.533 U.S. 510 (2003), see, e.g.. Tshiteva v. Crawford. No. 1:13-CV-894, 2013 WL 6635096, at *5 (E.D. Va. Dec. 16, 2013); Ozah v. Holder. No. 3:12-CV-337, 2013 WL 709192, at *5 (E.D. Va. Feb. 26, 2013); Obaido v. Lucero. No. 1:12-CV-415, 2012 WL 3257827, at *2 (E.D. Va. Aug. 8, 2012), this reasoning has been called into question by the growing weight of circuit court precedent concluding that Demore should be construed narrowly, as well as by new evidence about the duration of pre-removal detention in the United States. After reviewing the relevant Supreme Court precedent, this Court reaches the same conclusion as all six courts of appeals to confront this ...


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