The opinion of the court was delivered by: SYLVIA H. RAMBO
Before the court are the motions of Petitioner Yong Zhong Pan for permanent class certification and for a preliminary injunction. Briefs have been filed and the motions are ripe for disposition.
The background of this case was set forth in detail in this court's order of November 24, 1993. Petitioners in this consolidated action are citizens of the People's Republic of China ("PRC") who were arrested and detained after the grounding of the Golden Venture in New York Harbor in June 1993 and who are currently subject to final orders of exclusion.
Approximately 120 Golden Venture detainees currently are housed in the York County Prison, a facility located in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Many of the detainees, including Petitioner Pan and the other individual Petitioners in this action, have filed claims for asylum. After their asylum claims were rejected and their subsequent administrative remedies exhausted, the individual Petitioners filed the instant habeas actions.
At this point, more than fifteen aliens have filed individual petitions challenging final orders of exclusion.
Because the petitions raised many similar issues and counsel were filing virtually identical motions for temporary and permanent relief, the court consolidated the individual actions under the above caption and urged counsel for Petitioners to coordinate their efforts to reduce unnecessary repetition of motions and briefs.
On November 17, 1993, Petitioner Pan filed an amended petition/complaint seeking, inter alia, class certification and interim class relief. Petitioner requested that the court certify the following class pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1) and (b)(2):
(Class Certification Mot. at 2.)
Petitioner's class claims focus on the application of a Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") precedent decision, Matter of Chang, Int. Dec. No. 3107 (BIA 1989), to his claim. Specifically, Petitioner identifies the class issues as follows:
(1) whether the BIA, with the support or acquiescence of the other defendants, applies an erroneous standard for determining what constitutes an imputed political opinion within the meaning of the Refugee Act of 1980, as amended and interpreted by the Federal Courts, in connection with opposition to the coerced population control policies of the People's Republic of China;
(2) whether application by the BIA of its decision in Chang as binding precedent in the cases of plaintiff-petitioner and other Class members conflicts with applicable Presidential Executive orders and regulations and directives promulgated by the Attorney General;
(3) whether Immigration Judges and the BIA have improperly applied Chang as an automatic, absolute bar to consideration of the particular facts to an individual applicant for asylum arising out of the applicant's opposition to the coerced population control policies of the PRC; and
(4) whether application by the BIA of its decision in Chang as binding precedent in the cases of plaintiff-petitioner and other Class members conflicts with the Refugee Act of 1980, as amended and as interpreted by the Federal Courts.
(Pet.'s br. in support of class certification mot. at 11 (citing Am. Pet./Compl. at P 13)).
Because Petitioner's proposed class includes aliens in custody outside the district and those who have not exhausted their administrative remedies, his request for relief raises significant jurisdictional issues. The court specifically requested that the parties address these issues in their briefs.
At the same time, however, the court was greatly concerned that class members would be irreparably harmed should they be deported pending a resolution of the request for class certification and of the merits of their claims for injunctive relief. After an initial review of the relevant case law and in order to maintain the status quo pending a determination of the scope of the court's jurisdiction, this court conditionally certified a class limited to those aliens in the district who had exhausted their administrative remedies.
Based on these same concerns, the court also issued a temporary restraining order barring the government from deporting any class members before December 10, 1993. At the request of the government, this deadline was later extended to January 5, 1994 to permit full briefing of the issues raised.