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Miller v. McAleenan

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

June 7, 2019

MILTON MILLER, Petitioner,
v.
KEVIN K. McALEENAN, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and MICHELLE PERRY, Director of the Kansas City Field Office, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Respondents.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS AND STAYING THE CASE PENDING THE COMPLETION OF REMOVAL PROCEEDINGS

          GREG KAYS, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This case arises from Petitioner Milton Miller's allegations that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS” or “the agency”) wrongfully denied his application for naturalization. Now before the Court is Respondent Kevin K. McAleenan, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security's (“DHS”) and Respondent Michelle Perry, Director of the Kansas City USCIS Field Office's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (6) (Doc. 6). Petitioner did not respond to the motion.

         Respondents claim this Court is without jurisdiction to hear the case or, alternatively, that Petitioner has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Because the removal proceedings take priority over naturalization appeals but do not deprive the Court of jurisdiction or demand dismissal, the motion is DENIED and the case is STAYED pending the outcome of the removal proceedings.

         Background[1]

         In July 2016, Petitioner applied for naturalization. The USCIS denied his application in January 2017 because he failed to establish the requisite “good moral character” due to a prior conviction (Doc. 1-2). Petitioner then filed a request for a hearing with the Kansas City USCIS Field Office. On September 25, 2018, the Kansas City USCIS Field Office conducted an appeal hearing. Two days later, USCIS issued a final decision denying Petitioner's naturalization application because of his “lack of good moral character and lack of reformation of character with regards to following the laws of the United States” (Doc. 1-3).

         Petitioner timely filed this request for de novo judicial review of his naturalization denial pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c). During the pendency of this litigation, USCIS placed Petitioner into removal proceedings.

         Standard

         Respondents seek dismissal under either Rule 12(b)(1) or 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A motion to dismiss under 12(b)(1) challenges the Court's subject matter jurisdiction. To survive a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the party asserting jurisdiction has the burden of proving jurisdiction. VS Ltd. P'ship v. Dep't of Hous. & Urban Dev., 235 F.3d 1109, 1112 (8th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). It is the threshold requirement that must be assured in every federal case. Id.

         While a motion under 12(b)(1) challenges the district court's ability to hear the case at all, a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. A complaint may be dismissed if it fails “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To avoid dismissal, a complaint must include “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In reviewing the complaint, the court construes it liberally and draws all reasonable inferences from the facts in the plaintiff's favor. Monson v. Drug Enf't Admin., 589 F.3d 952, 961 (8th Cir. 2009).

         Discussion

         The agency[2] is granted the sole authority to naturalize persons as citizens of the United States. 8 U.S.C. § 1421(a). District courts, however, can review naturalization denials pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c), which provides:

A person whose application for naturalization under this subchapter is denied, after a hearing before an immigration officer under section 1447(a) of this Title, may seek review of such denial before the United States district court for the district in which such person resides in accordance with chapter 7 of title 5. Such review shall be de novo, and the court shall make its own findings of fact and conclusions of law and shall, at the request of the petitioner, conduct a hearing de novo on the application.

         Any relief provided to the petitioner under § 1421(c) is an instruction to the agency to naturalize the petitioner. Zayed v. United States, 368 F.3d 902, 906 (6th Cir. 2004) (finding that the district has no authority to naturalize the petitioner, only to direct the agency to do so).

         Once removal proceedings have been initiated, however, the agency's power to naturalize is limited by § 1429, which provides that “no application for naturalization shall be considered by the [agency] if there is pending against the applicant a removal proceeding.” 8 U.S.C. § 1429. In effect, this provision ensures that ...


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