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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily                        <Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly 

NOTICE OF PROPOSED SETTLEMENT AND HEARING ON PROPOSED SETTLEMENT OF CLASS ACTION CONCERNING ADMINISTRATIVE FORFEITURE OF CONVEYANCES BY IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE

 

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON

            Gete et al. v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Civil Action No. C94-881Z

                                                                                   

            To all persons, from June 10, 1989, through September 17, 1999, (1) who own or owned vehicles that were seized within the INS’s Western Region for a violation of the immigration laws, 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)-(b); (2) whose vehicles were subjected to administrative forfeiture proceedings by the INS; and (3) who requested a personal interview and/or filed a petition for mitigation or remission of forfeiture that was not granted in full:

            (The INS Western Region includes (1) the INS Districts of Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, California; Los Angeles, California; Honolulu, Hawaii; Phoenix, Arizona; Portland, Oregon; and Anchorage, Alaska; and (2) the Border Patrol Sectors of Spokane, Washington; Blaine, Washington; Livermore, California; San Diego, California; El Centro, California; Yuma, Arizona; and Tuscon, Arizona):

            You are hereby notified that a hearing has been scheduled for November 20, 2000, at 1:00 p.m. before the Honorable Thomas Zilly of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, 215 U.S. Courthouse, 1010 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, Washington, 98104, for consideration of a proposed settlement of the claims which have been brought on your behalf in this action.

 

Purpose of This Notice

            This notice is to inform you of the proposed settlement, tell you how to obtain more information, and explain how you may object to the proposed settlement if you disagree with it.

           

Background

            Ten named Plaintiffs brought this class action lawsuit in 1994 to challenge the Immigration and Naturalization Service's procedures for administratively seizing and forfeiting conveyances for alleged violations of alien smuggling laws.

            The parties have reached a tentative settlement which the Court has preliminarily approved.  The Court and the parties believe that the interests of the class members will be served by acceptance and implementation of the proposed settlement.

 

The Proposed Settlement Agreement

            In summary, under the proposed settlement, the INS would revise some of its former procedures and provide an opportunity for reconsideration for class members who were denied relief from administrative forfeiture.

            The proposed settlement agreement will become effective on the 20th working day after final Court approval of the settlement and dismissal of the lawsuit.

            Under the proposed settlement, the INS agrees to the following:

            1 – Revise the form it previously used to notify owners of seized vehicles of their rights and options.  The revised notice form advises the owner of a seized conveyance of the specific statutory subsection allegedly violated and the factual basis for the seizure.


            2 – Adopt mitigation guidance to assist INS ruling officials in assessing administrative penalties during adjudication of a petition for mitigation of forfeiture.  The settlement agreement also requires several other actions by the INS to ensure that mitigation penalties are uniform and not excessive, such as training for INS officials who adjudicate mitigation petitions and regional monitoring to ensure reasonableness and similarity of penalty amounts.

            3 – Train INS seizing officers concerning the probable cause standard for seizing conveyances.

            4 – Provide copies or a detailed summary of adverse evidence to owners of seized vehicles upon request.

            5 – Render decisions in writing after a personal interview or on a petition for mitigation or remission of forfeiture.  The agreement requires the INS to summarize the evidence relied upon and state the reasons for its decision.

            6 – Allow class members who petitioned for relief from forfeiture or who had a personal interview that is adequately documented in an existing forfeiture file to submit a petition for reconsideration of the denial of relief from forfeiture.  If an INS ruling official determines that a lesser penalty is appropriate, then the difference will be refunded to the class member.

 

For Further Information

            THIS IS A SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED AGREEMENT.  TO UNDERSTAND IT FULLY, YOU SHOULD READ THE ENTIRE AGREEMENT.  Copies of the proposed settlement may be obtained from:  Robert Pauw, 1111 Third Avenue, Suite 1210, Seattle, Washington, 98101 (www.ghp-law.net), or from Lorri Shealy Unumb, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, U.S. Department of Justice, P.O. Box 878, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, D.C. 20044.

 

Procedures for Agreement or Objection

            IF YOU AGREE WITH THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT, YOU DO NOT NEED TO DO ANYTHING AT THIS TIME.  You may be present at the public hearing on the proposed settlement as stated above.

            IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THE PROPOSED SETTLEMENT, YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO OBJECT TO IT AND TO THE DISMISSAL WITH PREJUDICE OF THE REMAINING CLAIMS IN THE LAWSUIT.  YOUR OBJECTIONS WILL BE CONSIDERED BY THE COURT AS IT REVIEWS THE SETTLEMENT.  OBJECTIONS WILL BE CONSIDERED ONLY IF THE FOLLOWING PROCEDURES ARE FOLLOWED:

            1.  Objections must be filed in writing by mail with the Clerk of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, 215 U.S. Courthouse, 1010 Fifth Avenue, Seattle, Washington, 98104.  ALL OBJECTIONS MUST CONTAIN THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION:

a)  Name, address and telephone number of the person filing the objection.

b)  The place and approximate date on which your conveyance was seized and the approximate date on which you requested an interview and/or submitted a petition for relief.

            c)  A statement of the reasons for the objection.

d)  A statement that copies of the objections were sent to all lawyers listed below.

            2.  YOU MUST SEND COPIES OF YOUR OBJECTIONS TO ALL LAWYERS LISTED AT THE END OF THIS NOTICE.

            3.  The deadline for filing objections and mailing them to the lawyers listed below is November 15, 2000.  If objections are filed by mail, they must be received by the Court in time for filing on November 15, 2000.  Objections filed after that date will not be considered.  Class members who do not file objections on or before November 15, 2000, will not be permitted to testify at the hearing.

 

                                                Attorneys' names and addresses:

            For the Plaintiffs:                                                                        For the Defendants:

            Robert Pauw                                                                                    Lorri Shealy Unumb

            Gibbs Houston Pauw                                                                        Office of Immigration Litigation

            1111 Third Avenue                                                                        U.S. Department of Justice

            Suite 1210                                                                                    P.O. Box 878, Ben Franklin Station

            Seattle, WA  98101                                                                        Washington, D.C. 20044


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