United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER GRANTING FINAL APPROVAL OF THE SETTLEMENT
AGREEMENT RE: DKT. NO. 222
NATHANAEL M. COUSINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
the Court is the Plaintiffs' motion for final approval of
a class action settlement between a class of immigrant
juveniles seeking immigration relief and the United States
Department of Homeland Security, the United States
Citizenship and Immigration Services, and associated
officers. See Dkt. No. 222. The terms of the
settlement are set forth in the Settlement Agreement filed on
October 25, 2019 (see Dkt. No. 211-2, Ex. A) and
were preliminarily approved by the Court (see Dkt.
No. 218). Because the Settlement Agreement satisfies the
requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(e) and due
process, the Court GRANTS final approval of the settlement.
Factual and Procedural Background
factual background and legal framework for this case has been
summarized in greater detail in the Court's prior orders.
See Dkt. Nos. 49, 112, 142. The Court will briefly
recount those facts and the procedural history of this case
August 2018, individual plaintiffs J.L., M.D.G.B., and J.B.A.
filed this lawsuit alleging that USCIS implemented a blanket
policy denying petitions for Special Immigrant Juvenile
(“SIJ”) status under 8 U.S.C. §
1101(a)(27)(J). See Dkt. No. 1. Under that statute,
unmarried immigrants under the age of 21 may apply for SIJ
status if they were declared dependent on a state juvenile
court, could not be reunited with one or both of their
parents, and it would not be in their best interest to be
returned to their previous country of residence. See
8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(i)-(ii). If granted, SIJ
status provided a pathway to permanent residency and
citizenship. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1255, 1427.
to Plaintiffs, USCIS believed that California courts did not
have jurisdiction to make the required findings to establish
SIJ eligibility because California courts could not reunite
individuals over the age of 18 with their parents. USCIS thus
began denying SIJ applications based on California court
dependency orders. Plaintiffs argued that this practice was
contrary to law because California explicitly granted its
courts the power to make the necessary findings for SIJ
status. See Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 155; Cal.
Prob. Code § 1510.1.
October 24, 2018, the Court granted Plaintiffs' motion
for a preliminary injunction and enjoined Defendants from
denying SIJ status on the grounds that a California Probate
Court does not have jurisdiction or authority to
“reunify” an 18- to 20-year-old with his or her
parents. See Dkt. No. 49.
that order, Plaintiffs amended their complaint and moved for
class certification. See Dkt. Nos. 70, 71. On
February 1, 2019, the Court certified a class of
Children who have received or will receive guardianship
orders pursuant to California Probate Code § 1510.1(a)
and who have received or will receive denials of their SIJS
petitions on the grounds that the state court that issued the
SIJ Findings lacked jurisdiction because the court did not
have the authority to reunify the children with their
See Dkt. No. 112. The Court found that the class met
the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and
that certification under Rule 23(b)(2) was appropriate
because “the party opposing the class has acted or
refused to act on the grounds that apply generally to the
class, so that final injunctive relief or corresponding
declaratory relief is appropriate respecting the class as a
whole . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(b)(2).
further motion practice and discovery disputes, the parties
participated in several settlement discussions with
Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu. See Dkt. Nos. 199,
202, 203. On October 25, 2019, the parties settled and moved
for preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement.
See Dkt. Nos. 210, 211. The Court granted
preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement on October
30, 2019. See Dkt. Nos. 217, 218.
parties' Settlement Agreement provides that:
1. USCIS will no longer require state courts to have the
authority to place into custody or order reunification of a
SIJ applicant with his or her parents in order to determine
whether the reunification with one or both of their ...