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Mehla v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, S.D. California

December 4, 2019

MUKESH MEHLA, Petitioner,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, et al., Respondents.

          ORDER

          Hon. William Q. Hayes United States District Judge.

         The matter before the Court is the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 filed by Petitioner Mukesh Mehla. (ECF No. 1).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner is a native and citizen of India who is currently detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center. (Petition, Ex. B, ECF No. 1-4 at 3, 8). On June 22, 2019, Petitioner entered the United States near the San Ysidro Port of Entry without inspection. Petitioner was apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol, transported to the Otay Mesa Detention Center, and placed in expedited removal proceedings. After Petitioner expressed a fear of returning to India because he converted from Hindu to Christianity, Petitioner was referred to a USCIS asylum officer for a credible fear determination.

         On August 21, 2019, the asylum officer interviewed Petitioner. The asylum officer determined that Petitioner “is found credible” but did not have a credible fear of persecution. (Id. at 13, 28). The asylum officer determined that “[a]lthough the applicant established a significant possibility of past persecution on account of his religion, there is substantial evidence that the applicant could internally relocate and that it would be reasonable for him to do so.” (Id. at 29). A supervisor approved the asylum officer's determination on August 23, 2019.

         On August 26, 2019, Petitioner requested review of the asylum officer's determination by an immigration judge. On August 29, 2019, the Immigration Judge reviewed the asylum officer's determination and interviewed Petitioner. (Petition, Ex. A, ECF No. 1-3 at 2). The Immigration Judge affirmed the determination of the asylum officer that Petitioner did not establish a credible fear of persecution and ordered Petitioner removed. The Immigration Judge determined, “Court finds respondent not credible and affirms on that basis due to de novo review authority and not based on internal relocation finding.” (Id.).

         On November 25, 2019, Petitioner filed the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 naming Respondents U.S. Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement; U.S. Department of Justice; William P. Barr; Chad F. Wolf; Mark Morgan; Kenneth T. Cuccinelli; Carla L. Provost; David M. Radel; Alanna Y. Ow; Melissa M. Maxim; Gregory J. Archambeault; and Fred Figueroa. (ECF No. 1). Petitioner seeks 1) release from custody; 2) an order staying Petitioner's removal and barring his transfer to another detention facility; 3) an order enjoining Respondents from “continuing to apply the Lesson Plans and any related credible fear guidance issued by Respondents on or around April 30, 2019 and September 30, 2019;” 4) an order enjoining Respondents from “removing Petitioner without first providing him with new credible fear screening under correct legal standards or, in the alternative, full immigration court removal proceedings pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1229a; and 5) attorneys' fees and costs. (ECF No. 1 at 41).

         On November 25, 2019, Respondents filed a Return. (ECF No. 2).

         On November 27, 2019, Petitioner filed a Reply. (ECF No. 4).

         The Court heard oral argument on the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on December 2, 2019.

         II. CONTENTIONS

         Petitioner alleges that habeas relief is warranted because Petitioner's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were violated “on account of acts taken by the Respondents in disregard of substantive and procedural due process.” (ECF No. 1 ¶ 3). Petitioner alleges that “Respondents' efforts and actions to deport and remove him . . . fail to meet the most basic requirements of the Suspension Clause, and thus the determination and removal orders are faulty and without legal force.” (Id. ¶ 103). Petitioner alleges that “he is being held, and ordered removed, without having had a ‘meaningful opportunity to demonstrate that he is being held pursuant to the erroneous application or interpretation of relevant law.'” (Id. ¶ 3 (quoting Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 779 (2008)). Petitioner contends that the Department of Homeland Security has not met its burden to establish that “there is not countrywide persecution” such that it would be reasonable for Petitioner to relocate. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28). Petitioner further alleges that the April 30, 2019, and September 30, 2019, “Lesson Plans” issued by the Trump administration, which provide guidance to asylum officers on credible fear screenings, instruct officers “in a manner that is contrary to the governing statutes and regulations and substantially-and unlawfully-narrows access to the immigration and federal court systems.” (Id. ¶¶ 4, 10).

         Respondents contend that habeas relief is not warranted. Respondents contend that the Court lacks jurisdiction to review Petitioner's challenge to the “Lesson Plans.” Respondents contend that 8 U.S.C. § 1252(e)(3) requires systemic challenges to expedited removal proceedings to be brought in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Respondents further contend that Petitioner fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because “Petitioner sets forth allegations of what happened before the asylum officer and the IJ, but makes no specific allegations that either of them did anything unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful.” (ECF No. 2 at 5).

         III. STANDARDS GOVERNING ...


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