Class Action Lawsuit Against US Airways
Three Immigrants and their employers file a Class Action Lawsuit against US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They charge that USCIS systematically denies their claims for benefits and wages and instructs them not to take any action in response. Their lawyers argue that this violates the guarantees of the United States Constitution and the due process requirements of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (NDA). The complaint further charges that USCIS has engaged in discrimination against unlawful aliens, specifically those who are here on non-immigrant status. The case was assigned to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
On July 4th, the OSC held a two-day hearing to discuss the status of the three complainants. During this meeting, the OSC stated that it has received the initial complaint and is currently evaluating the matter. Thereafter, on July 7th, the Administrative Law Judge ordered a Status Conference, which is to be held in Washington, DC. On July 9th, the OLC issued a final decision in the matter, in which it held that the class action lawsuit should be dismissed, in consideration of the defendants having a duty to take reasonable steps to investigate the complaint, and the fact that the United States Congress has provided clear statutory guidance that no administrative body other than the USCIS has a responsibility to investigate or resolve claims against them.
Accordingly, on June 4th, in an eight-page decision, the ALJ held that the claim for adjustment of status, relating to deferred departure caused by failure to qualify for Employment Authorization, could not proceed as there had been no determination of eligibility for that status. On the same day, the United States filed a claim with the ALJ for a preliminary injunction of the unlawful denial of the opportunity to work in the United States. On June 5th, the ALJ granted the motion for a preliminary injunction. On June 6th, after considering the United States’ motion, the ALJ issued its written decision in which it held that the plaintiff failed to establish that there had been a sufficient notice of the proposed actions by six months or more before the date of the hearing.
On August 3rd, in a second lawsuit against US Airways, on the same day that the ALJ issued its decision denying the United States’ request for preliminary injunction, US Airways again filed suit against the plaintiffs. In this latter case, however, plaintiffs had moved to dismiss their initial lawsuit, and had merely sought a declaration that the conduct of US Airways’ check engine light was a violation of the airline’s passenger screening procedures. On August 8th, the United States Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the lawsuit should proceed. On August 12th, US Airways was served with a notice of default. At that point, it was found that all plaintiffs were represented by counsel.
On August 14th, US Airways responded to the lawsuit by filing its own answer to the complaint. The airline argued that it owed no duty to the passengers who were not traveling on US Airways flights, but did owe a duty to the original Priority Number System that set up the Visa Waiver Program. It claimed that it had received the signed application and waiver in regard to the subject of the original priority date, and that plaintiffs did not have standing to sue because the United States had waived its rights to bring the case. The airlines further claimed that the plaintiffs did not establish that they were victims of fraud but rather were merely pursuing an improper strategy. The airlines further claimed that plaintiffs did not have a cognizable injury, despite the fact that they had been denied a visa on the basis of their United States citizenship.
Plaintiffs argue that the airline companies’ claims are fraudulent, and that they intend to file class-action lawsuits on behalf of all travelers who were improperly denied entry to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. A class-action lawsuit can be a powerful weapon in a lawsuit; it allows the cases to be tried together by allowing the attorneys to try the cases in a courtroom as a group. In this case, it is expected that class-action lawsuits against US Airways will be filed by both individual attorneys and by groups of travelers who were likewise denied visas.