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Hu v. United States Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 12, 2018

JIAMING HU, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss (ECF No. 8) as a matter of judicial economy because Plaintiff is a member of a certified class action lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia: Nio v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 323 F.R.D. 28 (D.D.C. 2017). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be denied, but the Court will stay this case pending resolution of the Nio class action.

         BACKGROUND

         Jiaming Hu, a citizen of China who is residing in Missouri, filed this request for a writ of mandamus on September 6, 2017. The complaint names the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), and various federal officials as Defendants. Plaintiff seeks an order from this Court compelling Defendants to adjudicate his application for naturalization pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b), which states that if there is a failure to make a determination on an applicant's request for naturalization before the end of the 120-day period after the applicant's examination is conducted, the applicant may apply to the United States district court for the district in which the applicant resides for a hearing on the matter, and that such a court has jurisdiction over the matter.

         According to the complaint, at some point before September 15, 2016, Plaintiff, a citizen of China, enlisted in the United States Army under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (“MAVNI”) program to serve as a non-citizen soldier in the Selected Reserve. The MAVNI program is designed to allow the Department of Defense (“DOD” or “DoD”) to recruit non-U.S. citizens with critical language and/or medical skills that it deems to be “vital to the national interest.” ECF No. 1.

         On September 15, 2016, Plaintiff applied for naturalization pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1440, which allows for the naturalization of aliens who serve honorably in the Selected Reserve or in an active-duty status in the armed forces of the United States during any period in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or were engaged in military operations involving armed conflict with a hostile foreign force. Plaintiff appeared for his biometrics (fingerprinting and photographing) at the USCIS Application Support Center in St. Louis, MO. On April 13, 2017, the USCIS headquarters issued a guidance, instructing field offices to hold Selected Reserve naturalization applications for MAVNI applicants while the USCIS determined whether a MAVNI recruit drilling with the Delayed Training Program was “serving honorably as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve or in an active-duty status” within the meaning of § 1440. ECF No. 8. Shortly thereafter, on April 17, 2017, Plaintiff was interviewed by the USCIS at its Missouri Field Office, and his case was recommended for approval. As a member of the Selected Reserve, however, Plaintiff's application was included in the hold[1] issued on April 13, 2017. ECF No. 8.

         On May 24, 2017, while Plaintiff's application was on hold and before the instant suit was filed, ten foreign national soldiers who had also enlisted in the Selected Reserve through the MAVNI program and filed naturalization applications pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1440, filed a class action lawsuit in the District Court for the District of Columbia against the USCIS and the Department of Defense. See Nio, 323 F.R.D. at 30. The Nio plaintiffs sought to “compel and enjoin [d]efendants so that they comply with their statutory obligations pursuant to federal law, including 8 U.S.C. § 1440, to properly and timely act upon, and to otherwise cease interfering with, the processing of [p]laintiffs' naturalization applications.” ECF No. 8.

         On July 7, 2017 the USCIS issued an updated guidance stating, in relevant part:

USCIS has determined that the completion of D[o]D background checks is relevant to a MAVNI recruit's eligibility for naturalization. As such, all pending and future MAVNI cases may not proceed to interview, approval, or oath until confirmation that all enhanced DoD security checks are complete.

ECF No. 8.

         The Nio plaintiffs subsequently amended their complaint on two separate occasions, seeking to enjoin, inter alia, the July 7, 2017 guidance and to compel USCIS to adjudicate the applications. They also sought to certify a class of individuals who have:

(i) Enlisted in the Selected Reserve through the MAVNI program;
(ii) Have served honorably in the U.S. military through participation in at least one Selected Reserve drill period or in an active-duty status;
(iii) Have received from the U.S. military executed Form N-426s certifying their honorable service as members of the Selected ...

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