Federal Court Orders Department of Homeland Security to Issue Proof of Lawful Status to Permanent Residents

Unfounded Security Concerns Do Not Justify Withholding Documentation Beyond a

Reasonable Time

Jan 04, 2006, 00:00 ET from Cooley Godward LLP

    SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- A federal court issued a permanent
 injunction against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ordering the
 agency to provide documentation of lawful status ("green cards") to a
 nationwide class of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who have been denied
 such proof for months and, in many cases, years. The December 22, 2005 order
 by U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the Northern District of
 California added teeth to her August 2005 summary judgment ruling, in which
 she held that the DHS's policy of withholding documentation from persons
 already determined to be LPRs by Immigration Courts was arbitrary and
 capricious, and violated the DHS's nondiscretionary duty to issue
 documentation in a timely manner. In issuing a permanent injunction, the court
 rejected the DHS's national security contentions, concluding that such
 arguments were "illogical and unacceptably vague as a legal justification for
 withholding documentation." The plaintiff class is represented by Cooley
 Godward LLP, the Texas Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, and the Mexican
 American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). The DHS had acknowledged
 that the class, originally estimated to exceed 12,000, numbered in excess of
 6,000 persons as of October 2005.
     John C. Dwyer, a partner at Cooley Godward, which is handling the suit on
 a pro bono basis, welcomed the ruling, stating:  "It's unfortunate when it
 takes an order from a federal judge to get the federal government to do what
 they are obligated to do by law. Judge Patel got it right, and we hope that
 the Department of Homeland Security will now finally provide the documentation
 to which these lawful residents are entitled."
     The permanent injunction requires the DHS to issue documentation of lawful
 status to class members within a set period of time after the class member
 appears at an appointment at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
 (USCIS) office and requests documentation. The applicable time period depends
 on whether the class member was adjudicated as an LPR before or after April 1,
 2005, when the Justice Department changed certain regulations that apply to
 class members. Generally, the court's injunction requires the DHS to issue
 documentation within 30 days of the first USCIS appointment for post-April 1,
 2005 grantees and within 60 days for pre-April 1, 2005 grantees. The time
 periods afford DHS the opportunity to verify that the class member was granted
 LPR status and allows for collection of biometrics information, such as
 fingerprints and photographs. The injunction also required the USCIS to post a
 notice to class members on its website containing instructions for obtaining
 documentation. A class member may start the process of obtaining documentation
 by making an appointment at a local USCIS district office and presenting the
 Immigration Court's order granting LPR status along with proof of their
 identity. The DHS's failure to abide by the injunction is to be remedied
 through contempt proceedings before the court.
     Javier N. Maldonado, Executive Director of the Texas Lawyers' Committee,
 commended the ruling, stating:  "We are extremely pleased with the court's
 injunction. Our clients will now have the opportunity to fully enjoy the
 important rights and privileges of being a lawful permanent resident in the
 United States, that is to work, travel, attend school, and pursue the American
     The lawsuit, Santillan, et al. v. Gonzales, et al., was filed in federal
 district court in San Francisco in July 2004. The class action suit charged
 that DHS offices nationwide are consistently rejecting and delaying lawful
 permanent residents' requests for documentation of their LPR status. Green
 card delays, which have lasted from months to years, have created serious
 hardships for immigrants and their families.
     The Department of Homeland Security has 60 days from the entry of the
 injunction to file an appeal.
     The public interest litigation partnership of Cooley Godward's Pro Bono
 practice and the non-profit Texas Lawyers' Committee was facilitated by the
 Litigation Assistance Partnership Project (LAPP) of the American Bar
 Association (ABA).
     You can receive a full copy of the summary judgment order by going to
 www.cooley.com/LPR or www.txlawyerscommittee.org.
     About Cooley Godward LLP
     Cooley Godward is an established provider of strategic litigation and
 business transaction services and a recognized leader in the representation of
 high-growth private and public companies, financial institutions, venture
 capital firms and nonprofit organizations. Our singular focus on providing the
 highest quality legal services has enabled our clients to achieve their
 strategic business objectives and garnered for Cooley recognition as one of
 the country's leading law firms. Cooley Godward is also nationally known for
 its award-winning Pro Bono practice. Last year, more than 300 Cooley attorneys
 contributed over 28,000 hours to non-profit organizations, disadvantaged
 communities and low-income families. Cooley was recently named to The American
 Lawyer magazine's 2005 "A List," the publication's annual ranking of "the best
 of the best" among the nation's top law firms.  For more information, visit
     The Texas Lawyers' Committee is a non-profit civil rights organization
 dedicated to protecting and defending the rights of immigrants and refugees
 throughout the state of Texas. For more information, visit
     The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the
 nation's premier Latino civil rights organization founded in 1968, promotes
 and protects the rights of Latinos through advocacy, community education and
 outreach, leadership development, higher education scholarships and when
 necessary, through the legal system.  For more information, visit
     The Litigation Assistance Partnership Project (LAPP) is a program of the
 American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Litigation that links the pro bono
 resources of private firms with legal service and public interest programs
 across the country. Please visit www.abanet.org/litigation/lapp/home.html.
      Javier N. Maldonado
      Texas Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
      Ellen Taverner
      Cooley Godward LLP
      Marisol Perez
      Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

SOURCE Cooley Godward LLP