Watchlist Victory: Jibril v. Mayorkas

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In 2018, during extended airline trips, the members of the Jibril family (“Jibrils” or “Appellants”), a family of U.S. citizens, were forced to endure extensive and intrusive security screenings at domestic and international airports. As a result of these encounters with Government agents, the Jibrils believed that they were on a terrorist watchlist maintained by the U.S. Government. They initially invoked an administrative redress process to challenge their alleged inclusion on the watchlist. However, Government officials refused to disclose the family’s watchlist status. Finding the Government’s response inadequate to safeguard them from similar treatment in the future, the Jibrils filed suit in the District Court against the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and various other federal Government officials (collectively, “Government”). Their complaint alleges violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the Administrative Procedure Act, and it seeks declaratory and injunctive relief. The Government filed a motion to dismiss, which the District Court granted, with prejudice, on the ground that Appellants lacked Article III standing. Jibril v. Wolf, No. 19-cv-2457, slip op. at 6-10 (D.D.C. May 9, 2020), reprinted in Joint Appendix (“J.A.”) 161-65. The Jibrils now appeal. Before this court, the Government contends that the judgment of the District Court should be affirmed because the Jibrils’ complaint fails to adequately allege any imminent threat of future injury. We disagree. The Jibrils have plausibly alleged that they have future travel plans. We easily infer from the family’s travel history that they will soon fly again, particularly if they secure the relief they now seek. Furthermore, the Jibrils’ uncontested factual allegations, combined with the reasonable inferences we draw from them, plausibly indicate that the family likely appeared on a terrorist watchlist in 2018. The Jibrils also plausibly allege that the treatment they endured went well beyond what typical travelers reasonably expect during airport screenings. Finally, the Jibrils’ factual allegations lead to the reasonable inference that the family’s watchlist status remains the same today. Any information to the contrary is within the Government’s exclusive control, and we must draw all reasonable inferences in the Jibrils’ favor at this stage of the litigation. Because the Jibrils plausibly allege that they will travel again soon and that they will again endure the alleged illegalities, they have established an imminent threat of future injury. Therefore, for the reasons that we explain below, we conclude that the Jibrils have standing to pursue most of their claims for prospective relief. However, we hold that the Jibrils lack standing to pursue prospective relief relating to certain actions taken by Government agents who detained them during their travel in 2018. The Jibrils claim that these actions violated established federal policies, but they lack standing because they have not plausibly alleged any impending or substantial risk of future harm. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the District Court’s judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.