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Alwan v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri

August 24, 2017

WAFAA ALWAN, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. CITIZENSHIP & IMMIGRATION SERVICES,, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants U.S. Citizenship Immigration Services (“USCIS”); Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security; Leon Rodriguez, Director of USCIS; Matthew D. Emrich, Associate Director, Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate of USCIS; Daniel Renaud, Associate Director, Field Operations Directorate of USCIS; David Douglas, District Director of the Kansas City District Office, USCIS; and Chester Moyer, Director of the St. Louis Field Office of USCIS (Doc. No. 22). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

         Background

         On May 18, 2016, Plaintiffs Eriola Arapi, Samina Syed, Wafaa Alwan, Saqib Sarwar, Mohammad A. Al Muttan, Syed Asghar Ali, Ibrahim Mohamed Zidan, Hanaa B. Kayem, Abubakar Ahmed Abulfathi, Mirzeta Tursunovic, Amina Tursunovic, Syed Tariq Ali, [1] and Mohammad S. Jauda filed the initial complaint in this matter alleging their naturalization applications were being unlawfully delayed under a policy known as the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program (“CARRP”). Plaintiffs claimed that CARRP was designed by Defendants to delay the immigration cases of Muslims and develop pretextual reasons for denying their applications. Plaintiffs requested the Court enjoin USCIS from applying CARRP to their immigration applications, declare that CARRP is illegal, and adjudicate their applications. (Doc. No. 1). On June 21, 2016, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief (“AC”), joining eight additional Plaintiffs, for a total of twenty Plaintiffs (Doc. No. 3).

         On July 12, 2016, this Court granted Defendants' unopposed motion seeking an extension of their initial response date from July 22, 2016 to September 5, 2016 (Doc. No. 10). On August 29, 2016, after Plaintiffs filed a “Rule 41(a) Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of Claims by Certain Plaintiffs” (Doc. No. 12), the Court dismissed the following ten Plaintiffs: Eriola Arapi, Saqib Sarwar, Syed Asghar Ali, Hanaa B. Kayem, Mohammad S. Jauda, Musrath Jahan Baig, Mahmood Ali Mansur, Sary Ibrahim Doumbia, Nermin Busevac, and Abdelsamed Alamin.[2] (Doc. No. 13).

         On September 1, 2016, this Court granted Defendants' unopposed motion seeking another extension of their response date, from September 5, 2016 to October 20, 2016 (Doc. No. 14). On October 5, 2016, after Plaintiffs filed a “Second Rule 41(a) Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of Claims by Certain Plaintiffs” (Doc. No. 16), this Court dismissed the following four Plaintiffs: Samina Syed, Abdolreza Osouli, Amina Tursunovic, and Sharafat Mohammed.[3] (Doc. No. 17).

         On October 13, 2016, the Court granted Defendants' unopposed motion to extend their response date from October 20, 2016 to December 19, 2016 (Doc. No. 19). On December 12, 2016, after Plaintiffs filed a “Third Rule 41(a) Notice of Voluntary Dismissal of Claims by Certain Plaintiffs” (Doc. No. 20), the Court dismissed the following five Plaintiffs: Ibrahim Mohamed Zidan, Abubakar Ahmed Abulfathi, Mirzeta Tursunovic, Mohammad A. Al Muttan, and Adnan Sawlan.[4] (Doc. No. 21).

         Wafaa Alwan, a forty-nine year old Iraqi national and lawful permanent resident of the United States, is the sole remaining Plaintiff in this matter. Alwan applied for naturalization on December 17, 2014, and appeared for an interview on August 31, 2015 (AC at ¶ 20). She alleges that even though she satisfies all statutory criteria for naturalization, USCIS refused to adjudicate her application, instead applying more stringent rules under CARRP (AC at ¶ 3). According to Alwan, her application was delayed under CARRP, which prohibits USCIS field officers from approving an application with a potential “national security concern, ” instead directing them to deny the application or delay adjudication-often indefinitely-in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 101 et seq. (AC at ¶¶ 8-9, 13, 48). Alwan requests the Court determine that she meets the requirements of naturalization and naturalize her without further delay (AC at ¶¶ 137-38).

         On August 25, 2016, after the filing of this complaint, the Illinois State Police arrested Alwan for the offense of Unlawful Transportation of Contraband Cigarettes, in violation of 35 ILCS 130/9C, a Class 4 Felony. USCIS denied Alwan's application for naturalization on October 20, 2016 based on unlawful acts committed during the good moral character period (Doc. No. 22-1). On November 17, 2016, Alwan filed an administrative appeal of the denial of her application (Doc. No. 22-2), which appears to be pending.

         Legal framework for naturalization

         To become a United States citizen through naturalization, an applicant must satisfy certain eligibility criteria under the INA. Applicants must prove that they are “at least 18 years of age, ” 8 C.F.R. § 316.2(a)(1); have “resided continuously, after being lawfully admitted” to the United States “for at least five years”; and have been “physically present” in the United States for “at least half of that time.” 8 U.S.C. § 1427(a)(1). Applicants must also demonstrate “good moral character” for the five years preceding the date of application, “attach[ment] to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and favorabl[e] dispos[ition] toward the good order and happiness of the United States …” 8 C.F.R. § 316.2(a)(7).

         Once an individual submits an application, USCIS conducts a background investigation, see 8 U.S.C. § 1446(a); 8 C.F.R. § 335.1, which includes a full FBI criminal background check, see 8 C.F.R. § 335.2. After completing the background investigation, USCIS schedules a naturalization examination at which the applicant meets with a USCIS examiner for an interview. In order to avoid inordinate processing delays and backlogs, Congress has stated “that the processing of an immigration benefit application, ” which includes naturalization, “should be completed not later than 180 days after the initial filing of the application.” 8 U.S.C. § 1571(b). USCIS must either grant or deny a naturalization application within 120 days of the date of the examination. 8 C.F.R. § 335.3. If an applicant satisfies the statutory requirements for naturalization, USCIS “shall grant the application.” 8 C.F.R. § 335.3(a).

         If USCIS fails to adjudicate a naturalization application within 120 days after interviewing a naturalization applicant, the applicant may apply to the district court for a hearing on the naturalization application, in which case the court “may either determine the matter or remand the matter, with appropriate instructions, to [USCIS] to determine the matter.” 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b). If USCIS denies a naturalization application, the applicant may administratively appeal the denial by requesting a hearing before an immigration officer by submitting a Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA). 8 U.S.C. § 1447(a); 8 C.F.R. § 336.2(b). If, after administratively appealing the denial, USCIS sustains a naturalization denial, an applicant may seek de novo review of naturalization eligibility with the district court. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1447(a), 1421(c).

         Alwan alleges that in April 2008, USCIS created CARRP, an agency-wide policy for identifying, processing, and adjudicating immigration applications that raise “national security concerns.” (AC at ¶ 63). She claims that a “national security concern” arises when an individual or organization has been determined to have an “articulable link … to prior, current, or planned involvement in, or association with, an activity, individual or organization” that ...


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