J.D. v. Azar

925 F.3d 1291 (D.C. Cir. 2019)


Among the scores of persons who come to the United States each year without lawful immigration status, several thousand are 'unaccompanied alien children.' Unaccompanied alien children (UACs) are minors in the United States with no lawful immigration status and no parents or legal guardians in the country able to care for them. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) bears responsibility for the 'care and placement' of UACs. ORR usually places unaccompanied minors in one of roughly 100 federally funded shelters across the country. The minor remains in ORR custody until one of five events occurs: (i) she is released to a sponsor in the United States; (ii) she turns 18, at which point she is transferred to the custody of DHS; (iii) she obtains lawful immigration status in the United States; (iv) she is permitted to voluntarily depart the country; or (v) she is removed from the country. Most UACs are released to a sponsor at some point. All sponsors are required to undergo background checks and complete a sponsor assessment process. Each year, ORR has several hundred pregnant unaccompanied minors in its custody. In 2017, 18 pregnant unaccompanied minors in ORR custody requested an abortion. In March 2017, ORR announced that shelters 'are prohibited from taking any action that facilitates an abortion without direction and approval from the Director of ORR.' Scott Lloyd, who became Director in March 2017, denied every abortion request presented to him during his tenure. He refused every request regardless of the circumstances, including when the pregnancy resulted from rape. P had been raped in her country of origin. After her arrival here and her placement in government custody, she learned she was pregnant as a result of the rape. She repeatedly asked to obtain a pre-viability abortion. P obtained private funding for the abortion procedure and arranged her transportation to and from the provider. But even though P secured her funding and transportation, and even though she had satisfied the conditions under Texas law to obtain an abortion, ORR, per Director Lloyd's instruction, refused to authorize her release from the shelter for the procedure. The government sought to compel P to carry her rape-induced pregnancy to term. P brought the present suit challenging ORR's abortion policies on behalf of herself and a class of similarly situated individuals. By court intervention, P obtained an abortion  P is one of the named plaintiffs who brought this challenge to the government's policy on behalf of a class of pregnant unaccompanied minors. The district court granted a preliminary injunction in favor of Ps, and the government now appeals.