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Bremer v. Johnson

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

December 17, 2014

JOEL BREMER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JEH JOHNSON, et al., Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION DISMISSING CASE WITHOUT PREJUDICE FOR LACK OF JURISDICTION

ORTRIE D. SMITH, Senior District Judge.

Pending are the parties' cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (Doc. #12, Doc. #16). For the reasons set forth below, the case is dismissed without prejudice for lack of jurisdiction.

I. BACKGROUND

Mr. Joel Bremer and Mrs. Ma Susan Bremer ("Plaintiffs") filed a class action complaint in this Court on December 20, 2013. Pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), Mr. Bremer, a United States citizen, filed an I-130 petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") seeking to classify Mrs. Bremer, his foreign national spouse, as an immediate relative so she could become a lawful permanent resident. Under the Adam Walsh Act ("AWA"), USCIS may not approve I-130 petitions if the petitioner has been convicted of a qualifying crime, "unless the Secretary of Homeland Security, in the Secretary's sole and unreviewable discretion" determines that the petitioner poses no risk to the beneficiary of the petition. 8 U.S.C. 1154(a)(1)(A)(viii)(I). In 2001, Mr. Bremer was convicted of an AWA qualifying crime. USCIS determined Mr. Bremer failed to show he posed "no risk" to Mrs. Bremer, the intended beneficiary of his petition, and for that reason denied his I-130 petition.

Plaintiffs allege in their Complaint that Defendants improperly denied their visa petitions pursuant to the AWA. Plaintiffs generally allege these improper denials violated the Administrative Procedures Act ("APA") and various Constitutional provisions.

On October 10, 2014, the Court certified the action as a class action pursuant to Rule 23 (Doc. #27), defining the class as follows:

Individuals residing within the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri who (1) have been or will in the future be the petitioner of an I-130 visa petition filed on behalf of a spouse with USCIS or who have been or will be a beneficiary of an I-130 visa petition, and (2) for whose case USCIS has determined that 8 U.S.C. 1154(a)(1)(A)(viii)("the Adam Walsh Act" or "the AWA") applies based on a finding that the petitioner "has been convicted of a specified offense against a minor" and thus require a determination by the Secretary of Homeland Security that the petitioner "poses no risk" to the beneficiary, and (3) whose I-130 visa petition USCIS denied based on a determination by USCIS that the petitioner failed to establish that he or she poses no risk to the beneficiary.
Also created is a separate limited class or "issues class, " with respect to Count VI, consisting of those individuals described above who: (1) have had their I-130 denied, and (2) in whose case USCIS relied on a criminal conviction that was final on or before July 27, 2006 (the effective date of the AWA).

On August 8, 2014, Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #12) and on September 2, 2014, filed their Suggestions in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #22), asserting therein that the Court lacks jurisdiction to review Plaintiffs' claims.

II. STANDARD

"[F]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Dakota, Minnesota & E.R.R. Corp. v. Schieffer, 715 F.3d 712 (8th Cir. 2013) (citations omitted). The party invoking federal jurisdiction has the burden of establishing that it exists. Id . See also, Jones v. United States, 727 F.3d 844, 846 (8th Cir. 2013); Bowe v. NW. Airlines, Inc., 974 F.2d 101, 103 (8th Cir. 1992). "Without jurisdiction the court cannot proceed at all in any cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause." Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998).

III. DISCUSSION

A.

There are three broad categories of potential claims that can be raised regarding USCIS's "no risk determination" under the AWA: (1) review of the USCIS's discretionary decision on the merits that an individual petitioner failed to demonstrate he or she posed no risk to the intended beneficiary of his or her petition, (2) a petitioner's individual constitutional or legal claims that are specific to his or her petition process, and (3) collateral constitutional or legal claims that address the general manner in which the AWA program is implemented. Plaintiffs raise claims that fall within the first and third categories. While Plaintiffs contend they do not raise challenges ...


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