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Palacios v. Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division

September 12, 2019

JUAN PALACIOS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND OPINION

          LEE H. ROSENTHAL, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Juan Palacios and his sons, Olman Palacios, A.P., and J.J.P., sued the Department of Homeland Security in August 2019 for terminating the parole portion of the Central American Minors Program in August 2017. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 1-2). Olman, A.P., and J.J.P. were granted a two-year parole term, from January 20, 2017 to January 19, 2019. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 2; Docket Entry No. 5-3 at 1). They were notified in August 2017 that the Program termination did not affect their ability to remain in this country through January 19, 2019, but they would have to leave the country after that unless they established another basis to remain. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 8; Docket Entry No. 5-1 at 1).

         In September 2018, just over one year after the August 2017 notification, the sons applied for reparole. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 8; Docket Entry No. 5-3 at 1). Each filed a Form I-131, “Application for Travel Document, ” with the Department. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 8; Docket Entry No. 5-3 at 1). The Department denied those applications on June 17, 2019, and the Palacioses were notified on the same day. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 8; Docket Entry No. 5-3 at 1). The Department gave the young men an extension of time (“[l]imited [p]arole”) until September 15, 2019, to leave the country or obtain lawful immigration status. (Id.).

         The Palacioses applied for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to: extend the three sons' parole until the end of this litigation; prevent the Department from enforcing the termination of the Parole Program; allow the sons to remain as if the Program was still in effect and they had successfully received two-year reparole under the Program; and require the government to grant or extend their work authorizations “parallel to their paroles.” (Docket Entry No. 1 at 3, 13; Docket Entry No. 5 at 1-2). The government opposed the motion, and the court held oral argument on September 10, 2019.

         After carefully reviewing the complaint, the motion, the record, and the applicable law, the court denies the application. The Program's termination and the subsequent denial of reparole will irreparably harm the Palacios family. The problem is that they failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits.

         I. Background

         The Central American Minors Program, created in 2014 by the Obama administration, allowed parents lawfully in the United States to apply to bring their children and other qualifying relatives from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador to the United States. S.A. v. Trump, 363 F.Supp.3d. 1048, 1054 (N.D. Cal. 2018). The Program permitted admission under refugee status or on temporary parole. Id. The Department of Homeland Security evaluated whether potential beneficiaries qualified for refugee status and, if not, considered them for parole. Id. Parole created no permanent immigration status. Id. at 1057. It was granted on a finding that the beneficiary cleared background vetting; that there was no significant derogatory information about the beneficiary; that the beneficiary was in danger in his or her home country; and that the beneficiary had someone who would provide financial support while the beneficiary was in the United States. Id.

         In August 2017, the Trump administration terminated the parole element of the Program. Id. at 1064. The administration allowed individuals who were paroled before the Program's termination to stay in the United States until their original parole terms expired (barring other grounds for parole revocation), and invited them to apply for reparole independent of the eliminated Program by filing a Form I-131. Id. (quoting Termination of the Central American Minors Parole Program, 82 Fed. Reg. 38, 926, 38, 927 (Aug. 16, 2017)). The Federal Register notice stated that “[p]arole will only be issued on a case-by-case basis and only where the applicant demonstrates an urgent humanitarian or a significant public benefit reason for parole and that applicant merits a favorable exercise of discretion.” Id.

         The Program termination followed President Trump's January 2017 executive order instructing the Secretary of Homeland Security to “end the abuse of parole . . . provisions” by “tak[ing] all appropriate action to ensure” that the Department granted parole in compliance with federal law. Id. at 1061 (quoting Exec. Order No. 13, 767, 82 Fed. Reg. 8793, 8795-96 (Jan. 25, 2017)). The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that immigration parole may be granted “temporarily” and “only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” 8 U.S.C. § 1182(d)(5)(A) (2018). In February 2017, then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly issued a memorandum stating that “the [Act's] language appears to strongly counsel in favor of using the parole authority sparingly.” S.A. v. Trump, 363 F.Supp.3d. at 1063- 64. In August 2017, the Department of Homeland Security determined that the Central American Minors Parole Program-which approved 99% of potential beneficiaries who were not already accepted as refugees-had “provided parole very broadly and not in accordance with the statu[t]e and the President's Executive Order, ” which require a case-by-case determination. Id. at 1054, 1071, 1079 (quoting a 2017 United States Citizenship and Immigration Services document titled “RTQ [response to queries]: Termination of the [Central American Minors] Parole Program”). The Department also stated that the Program was rescinded as part of “a new strategy to secure the U.S. southern border.” Id. at 1070-71 (quoting United States Citizenship and Immigration Services “Leadership Guidance, ” August 2017).

         Juan Palacios has had Salvadoran Temporary Protected Status in this country since 2001. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 3; Docket Entry No. 5 at 2). He and his wife secured their sons' presence “safely and legally, ” after years of working and waiting. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 2). Olman, A.P., and J.J.P. arrived in Houston, Texas on two-year parole from El Salvador on January 20, 2017, the day of President Trump's inauguration. (Id.). The family had “worked with Refugee Services of Texas and the International Organization of Migration in El Salvador to . . . [organize] extensive interviews in the United States and El Salvador; obtain[] passports and other documents to confirm [family] relationship[s]; [complete] security checks; [arrange] medical examinations; and [prepare a] travel itinerary.” (Id. at 7). The family spent over $10, 000 on the original parole applications and almost $2, 000 on the reparole applications. (Id. at 7-8). The children developed strong ties to America. Olman is working, A.P. is starting his senior year of high school, and J.J.P. is a junior in high school. (Id. at 3; Docket Entry No. 5 at 7).

         On approximately August 27, 2017, the three sons received notice that the Central American Minors Parole Program had ended. (Docket Entry No. 1 at 8; Docket Entry No. 5-1 at 1). This was 11 days after the Trump administration announced that it was ending the Program. (Docket Entry No. 5-1 at 1). The notices stated that to obtain reparole independent of the terminated Program, Olman, A.P., and J.J.P. each must file a Form I-131 and establish “that there are urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reasons for [him] to remain in the United States.” (Id.). The notices also stated that the Program termination did not affect the original parole period, meaning they could remain legally until January 19, 2019, and that they “may be eligible for other immigration options.” (Docket Entry No. 5-1 at 1-2; Docket Entry No. 5-3 at 1).[1]

         The government received the three Form I-131 reparole applications on September 11, 2018. (Docket Entry No. 5-3 at 1). On June 17, 2019, the sons were notified that reparole was denied and that they had until September 15, 2019-eight months after their original parole had ended-to leave the United States or obtain lawful immigration status. (Id.; Docket Entry No. 1 at 8).

         For convenience, the timeline of events is summarized below:

• 2014: the Obama administration created the Central American Minors Parole Program.[2]
• January 20, 2017: Olman Palacios, A.P., and J.J.P. arrived in the United States for a ...

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