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Serrano-Vargas v. Lowe

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 10, 2019

EVARISTO SERRANO-VARGAS, Petitioner
v.
CRAIG A. LOWE, Warden, Respondent

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Background

         Petitioner, Evaristo Serrano-Vargas, a detainee of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), currently confined in the Pike County Prison, Lords Valley, Pennsylvania, filed the above captioned petition for writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2241. (Doc. 1, petition). Serrano-Vargas challenges his continued detention by ICE pending removal. Id. Specifically, he argues that his detention is “unconstitutional, unreasonable and well-beyond the limits to the statutes under which he is now detained.” Id. He requests a constitutionally adequate bond hearing conducted by this court or release under supervision. Id. By Memorandum and Order dated May 18, 2018, the Court granted the habeas petition in part and ordered that Petitioner be afforded an individualized bond hearing before an immigration judge. (Docs. 11, 12).

         Presently pending before the Court is Petitioner's motion to enforce this Court's May 18, 2018 Order directing that an immigration judge conduct an individualized bond hearing. (Doc. 23). On June 14, 2018, an immigration judge held a bond hearing and determined that Petitioner's continued detention was warranted because he is a danger to the community and a significant flight risk. Id. In his motion to enforce, Petitioner argues that he was not afforded an impartial individualized bond hearing, the immigration judge failed to hold the government to the burden of proof, and the immigration judge denied Petitioner due process. Id. Respondent argues that Petitioner is not entitled to further habeas corpus relief because the conduct of his bond hearing did not violate his due process rights. (Doc. 24). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Petitioner's motion to enforce.

         II. Discussion

         In his instant motion, Petitioner requests that this Court conduct its own bond hearing. (Doc. 23). In support, Petitioner argues that the immigration judge failed to comply with this Court's May 18, 2018 Order by not conducting an individualized bond hearing, failing to hold the government to the burden of proof, and denying Petitioner due process. Id. Respondent counters that Petitioner is not entitled to further habeas relief, as he has received due process. (Doc. 24).

         The Middle District of Pennsylvania has previously confronted the narrow issue presented by Petitioner's motion to enforce. In Quinteros v. Sabol, No. 4:15-cv-02098, 2016 WL 6525295 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 3, 2016), the court stated as follows:

When a federal district court orders an immigration judge to conduct an individualized bond hearing as requested in a habeas petition, is it improper for the district court to retain jurisdiction for the purpose of conducting its own determination on the merits, prior to the petitioner exhausting his administrat[ive] remedies and the agency's decision becoming final? As a matter of both federalist principles and common-sense practicality, I consider it axiomatic that a federal court should not retain jurisdiction post-referral, but to the extent that it must, such review is necessarily limited to ensuring that the petitioner received the hearing he was owed in the first place. Accordingly, prior to satisfactory showings of exhaustion and finality, the district court should not revisit the merits of the immigration judge's determination. To do so would be premature and would otherwise disregard established constitutional bounds.

Quinteros, 2016 WL 6525295, at *1. The Court went on to provide that “an immigration judge's conducting an individualized bond determination ... necessarily moot[s] an underlying habeas petition that solely requests such a hearing be held.” Id.; see Carmil v. Green, 2015 WL 7253968, at *3 (D.N.J. Nov. 16, 2015) (“Petitioner has already received the sole relief available to him under Diop [v. ICE/Homeland Sec., 656 F.3d 221, 233 (3d Cir. 2011) ] and Chavez-Alvarez [v. Warden York Cnty. Prison, 783 F.3d 469, 475 (3d Cir. 2015) ], a bond hearing, and as such his Petition would be moot and would warrant dismissal for that reason instead.”).

         In Pierre v. Sabol, No. 1:11-cv-2184, 2012 WL 2921794 (M.D. Pa. July 17, 2012), the court addressed a petitioner's motion to reopen his §2241 action after it was closed upon referral to an immigration judge to conduct a bond hearing. Petitioner requested that the immigration judge reconsider his bail amount, or release him from detention. Id. at *1. The court denied petitioner's requests. Id. The court noted that the petitioner received the relief he requested, a hearing before an immigration judge, citing Leonardo v. Crawford, 646 F.3d 1157, 1161 (9th Cir. 2011), for the proposition that a “district court has authority to determine if there has been compliance with its earlier habeas order but acted properly in refusing to review the [immigration judge's] refusal to grant bond when the government complied with the habeas order by holding a hearing.” Id.

         The Court finds that there has been compliance with its earlier Order, in that Petitioner has an independent and adequate bond hearing before an immigration judges. See Quinteros, 2016 WL 6525295, at *1; Leonard, 646 F.3d at 1161.

         When reviewing a bond determination by an immigration judge following an order referring a case for individualized bond consideration, this Court's review is limited to three essential considerations: (1) whether the decision of the immigration judge paid full fidelity to the law of the case; (2) whether there has been no plain legal error by the immigration judge in identifying and applying the controlling legal precepts; and (3) whether the exercise of discretion in denying bond was so arbitrary that it would offend fundamental tenets of due process. Chajchic v. Rowley, No. 1:17-cv-00457, 2017 WL 4401895, *4-5 (M.D. Pa. July 25, 2017).

         As to the first consideration, the Court is satisfied that the bond hearing was in compliance with its May 18, 2018 Order, and in accordance with the law of the case. In rendering its decision, the immigration judges considered the representations of the Government and Petitioner. (Doc. 24-1). The immigration judge denied Petitioner bond because he is a danger to the community and he poses a significant flight risk. Id. The immigration judge found as follows:

So sir, what I am going to do is, since the government bears the burden by clear and convincing evidence, to show that your detention is necessary, I am going to hear arguments from her, and she is going ...

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