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HAYNES v. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

July 8, 2005.

WILFRED HAYNES Petitioner
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Respondent.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS VANASKIE, Chief Judge, District

MEMORANDUM

At issue in this habeas corpus proceeding is whether an alien ordered to be removed from the United States on the basis of his criminal convictions may be incarcerated for a prolonged period of time without an opportunity to be heard on the matter of conditional release from confinement because execution of the removal decree has been stayed by judicial order. Concluding that an alien in such a circumstance has a constitutional right to a meaningful individualized determination of his status pending adjudication of the validity of the removal order, I will grant the habeas petition conditionally, directing that Petitioner be released from confinement if he does not receive the type of meaningful review contemplated by 8 C.F.R. § 241.4(i) within sixty (60) days from the date of this decision.

I. BACKGROUND

  Pro se petitioner Wilfred Haynes, a native and citizen of Barbados, alleges that he entered the United States on August 29, 1980 on a tourist visa, and that his status was adjusted to lawful permanent resident in 1983. (Habeas Pet. at ¶ 10.) On March 21, 1984, Haynes was convicted of criminal possession of marijuana in the second degree, in violation of Section 221.25 of the New York State Penal Law, and criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree for carrying a loaded revolver in violation of Section 265.02 of the New York State Penal Law. (Id.) Haynes was sentenced to five years probation. (Gov't Ex. G.)

  On April 21, 1995, removal proceedings against Haynes were commenced by the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS").*fn1 (Gov't Ex. A.) The INS charged that Haynes was subject to removal from the United States under sections 241(a)(2)(C) and 241(a)(2)(B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.*fn2 The record before this Court does not explain the delay in the disposition of the initial deportation charges.

  In 2002, Haynes was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. On January 28, 2003, he was sentenced to a prison term of two to four years for criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree under section 220.06(5) of the New York State Penal Code. (Gov't Ex. B.) Haynes avers that he was taken into custody by the INS on January 28, 2004, upon completion of his sentence. (Habeas Pet. at ¶ 12.) On March 10, 2004, the INS filed an additional charge of inadmissibility/deportability under § 241(a)(2)(B)(i) of the INA due to the 2003 controlled substances conviction. (Gov't Ex. C.)

  Haynes applied for a waiver of deportation under former § 212(c) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(c), and for cancellation of removal under § 240A of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(a). (Gov't Ex. D.) On May 12, 2004, an Immigration Judge denied Haynes's claims as a matter of discretion and ordered him removed. (Gov't Ex. D & E.) Although Haynes initially waived appeal of the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, he later filed a notice of appeal that the Board accepted. (Gov't Ex. D.) The Board then dismissed Haynes's appeal on July 7, 2004, noting that he had withdrawn the appeal. (Gov't Ex. D & F.) Haynes filed a motion to reopen, claiming that he had again changed his mind and wished to pursue an appeal. (Gov't Ex. D.) By order dated September 8, 2004, the Board denied the motion. (Gov't Ex. G at 2.)

  On September 27, 2004, Haynes filed in this Court an "Emergency Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeking a stay of removal. (Haynes v. Department of Homeland Security, No. 3:04-CV-2142 (M.D. Pa.) On September 28, 2004, a stay of deportation was granted.*fn3

  On October 14, 2004, a records review was conducted by the INS to determine whether detention should be continued. (Gov't Ex. G.) It does not appear that Haynes was given advance notice of the review. It is clear, however, that he was not afforded an opportunity to appear before the decisionmakers to make a plea for release. Under the Officer Comments/Analysis & Recommendation section of the post custody review form, it states:
This Subject is under a Stay of Deportation. The subject has a long and sometime violent criminal history. This Officer has obtained many travel documents form [sic] Consulate of Barbados. This Officer is in possession of the subjects [sic] Birth Certificate and other documentation needed to obtain the travel document. This officer recommends the subject be held in custody until the Stay of Deportation is lifted and a travel document is obtained.
(Id. at 6.) On October 29, 2004, the "Deciding Official" directed that Haynes remain in custody. (Id.) Haynes states that the written decision ordering his continued detention was served upon him on November 12, 2004. (Habeas Pet. at ¶ 15.) He also asserts that authority over his detention was transferred to the Headquarters Post-Order Detention Unit, but that no opportunity for release pending the outcome of his challenge to the removal order has been afforded. (Id. at ¶ 16.)

  On February 17, 2005, Haynes filed this habeas corpus proceeding under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 challenging his continued detention. The INS answered the Petition on April 11, 2005, and Haynes filed a traverse on April 22, 2005. The petition is ripe for disposition.

  II. DISCUSSION

  The INS frames the issue before the Court as follows: "Whether Haynes is entitled to release from custody where he has a stay of removal which prevents his removal from the United States." (Response to Pet. at 4.) In support of its position that release is not available to Haynes, the INS asserts that he is being detained pursuant to § 241 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1231. It points out that section 241(a)(2), 8 U.S.C. § 1231(a)(2), prohibits the release of an alien who is deportable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2), such as Haynes, during the "removal period."

  Under 8 U.S.C. § 1231(a), "when an alien is ordered removed, the Attorney General shall remove the alien from the United States within a period of 90 days." Id. § 1231(a). This is known as the "removal period." Id. As to the date when the 90-day removal period begins, section 1231(a)(1)(B) provides:
The removal period begins on the latest of the following:
(i) The date the order of removal becomes administratively final.
(ii) If the removal order is judicially reviewed and if a court orders a stay of the removal of the alien, the date of the court's final order.
(iii) If the alien is detained or confined (except under an immigration process), the date the alien is released from detention or confinement.
The INS contends that because a stay of removal was issued on September 28, 2004, the "removal period has been tolled." (Response to Pet. at 6.) Thus, argues the INS, "Haynes is still within the removal period . . . [and] [a]s such, Haynes is not eligible for release at this time." (Id.) The INS observes that, by procuring a stay of removal, Haynes bears responsibility for his current detention. (Id. at 7-8.)

  Essentially, it is the position of the INS that Haynes remains within the ninety (90) day removal period, the running of which has been suspended as a consequence of the stay of removal. The INS uses the term "tolling" in support of its argument that Haynes remains within the "removal period," during which detention is mandatory. This position, however, does not find support in the statutory scheme. Section 241(a)(1) does not use the term "tolling" to describe the effect of a stay of removal. On the contrary, the legislation provides that, when a stay of removal has been ordered, the ninety (90) day removal period begins to run only when the court entering the stay issues a "final order." 8 U.S.C. § 1231(a)(1)(B)(ii). Consistent with the statutory language prescribing the commencement date for the removal period, INS regulations provide, in pertinent part, that the removal period "shall begin on the latest of the following dates: . . . (B) If the . . . court has ordered a stay of the alien's removal, the date on which, consistent with ...


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