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Nnodi H. v. Secretary of Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 24, 2019

Nnodi H., Petitioner,
Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, William P. Barr, Attorney General of the United States, [1] Scott Baniecke, ICE Field Office Director, and Kurt Freitag, Freeborn County Sheriff, Respondents.

          Nnodi H., 8048 James Avenue North, Brooklyn Park, MN 55444 (pro se Petitioner);

          Ana H. Voss, Ann M. Bildtsen, and David W. Fuller, Assistant United States Attorneys, United States Attorney's Office, 300 South Fourth Street, Suite 600, Minneapolis MN 55415 (for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, William P. Barr, and Scott Baniecke); and David John Walker, Freeborn County Attorney's Office, Freeborn County Government Center 411 South Broadway Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007 (for Respondent Kurt Freitag);


          Tony N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge District of Minnesota

         This matter is before the Court, United States Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung, on Petitioner Nnodi H.'s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (Pet., ECF No. 1). This action has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a report and recommendation to the Honorable Eric C. Tostrud, United States District Judge for the District of Minnesota, under 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 72.1. For the reasons set forth below, this Court recommends that the petition be denied as moot.


         Petitioner is a native and citizen of Nigeria. (ECF No. 8, p. 2). Petitioner entered the United States on a student visa in 2013. (Id.). Shortly thereafter, he was terminated from his program for failure to enroll. (Id.).

         In December 2017, Petitioner was arrested near Anoka, Minnesota and charged with four fraud-related offenses. (ECF No. 8-1, p. 2). Shortly thereafter, Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (“ICE”) commenced removal proceedings against him. ICE determined that Petitioner should be detained pending a final administrative review of his case. (ECF No. 8-4, p. 3). Petitioner requested that an immigration judge (“IJ”) review his custody determination. (ECF Nos. 8-1, p. 3). On February 26, 2018, following a series of bond hearings, the IJ granted Petitioner's request for a change in his custody status and set his bond at $7, 500. (ECF No. 8-4). The IJ denied Petitioner's subsequent request to lower his bond amount. (ECF No. 8-4). Petitioner appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals. (ECF Nos. 1-1, pp. 9-22; 8-8).

         The same day that Petitioner appealed the bond decision, he also signed a joint motion for voluntary departure, in which he was granted permission to depart voluntarily from the United States within 120 days, so long as he paid a $1, 500 bond within 30 days. (ECF No. 8-6). Nearly one month later, he filed a “motion” to withdraw that agreement with the Board of Immigration Appeals. (ECF No. 1-1, pp. 23-49; ECF No. 8-9). In response, ICE asked the Board to dismiss Petitioner's motion. (ECF No. 8-10).

         Petitioner quickly thereafter filed a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, asserting that his continued detention violated his constitutional rights. (ECF No. 1, passim). In particular, Petitioner argued that the $7, 500 bond set by the IJ was excessive and that his detention violated his rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, as well as his substantive rights. (ECF No. 1, pp. 7-8). Respondents answered on August 27, 2018, contending that the Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to review Petitioner's bond and arguing, in the alternative, that the Court deny the petition on the merits. (ECF No. 7). In response, Petitioner filed a series of exhibits, one of which was a Memorandum of Fact and Law in Support of Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241. (ECF No. 22-7).[2] Petitioner also filed with the Court a decision that the Board of Immigration Appeals reached in his appeal from his motion to withdraw. (ECF No. 27-1). In that decision, the Board remanded the proceedings back to the IJ so that Petitioner could “apply for any available relief.” (Id. at p. 2). The Board did not address the $7, 500 bond the IJ imposed.

         On March 8, 2019, the Court ordered the parties to provide additional information regarding Petitioner's appeal of the IJ's bond decision. (ECF No. 29). Following that order, the Government filed a supplemental response and declaration indicating that Petitioner was released from custody on January 25, 2019 after he posted a $7, 500 bond. (ECF Nos. 30 & 31-1). The Government included as part of its filing an exhibit that indicated that Petitioner now lives in Brooklyn Park. (ECF No. 31-1).[3] The Government also asked that the petition be denied as moot. (ECF No. 30). The Court subsequently ordered the Government to serve its supplemental response and related documents on Petitioner at his new address and directed Petitioner to respond on or before May 6, 2019. (ECF No. 33 and 35). Shortly thereafter, mail sent to Petitioner at his Brooklyn Park address was returned as “not deliverable as addressed.” (ECF No. 38). Petitioner did not file any reply to the Government's supplemental response.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A person detained by the government may file a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the legality of his confinement and, if successful, obtain his release. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 485 (1973). Federal courts have limited jurisdiction to hear habeas challenges to the lawfulness of immigration-related detentions. 28 U.S.C. § 2241; see also Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 687-88 (2001). Federal courts may consider whether an immigration-related detention violates an alien's constitutional rights. Id. at 688. They may not, however, review discretionary decisions made by the immigration authorities. See id. Discretionary decisions include the IJ's bond determination. 8 U.S.C. § 1226(e).

         The immigration laws permit the government to arrest an alien “pending a decision on whether the alien is to be removed from the United States.” 8 U.S.C. § 1226(a). Subject to certain exceptions that are not relevant here, and pending ...

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