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Obianyo v. U.S.C.I.S. Pennsylvania

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

March 25, 2019

UCHENNA OBIANYO, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S.C.I.S. PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants.

          UCHENNA OBIANYO 1175 MARLKRESS RD. 32651 CHERRY HILL, N.J. 08034 Appearing pro se.

          JORDAN MILOWE ANGER OFFICE OF THE U.S. ATTORNEY NEWARK, N.J. 07102 On behalf of Defendants.

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         This case concerns claims against the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Mount Laurel, New Jersey Offices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) (collectively, “Defendants”) alleging that Plaintiff Uchenna Obianyo was wrongfully denied naturalization and citizenship.

         Presently before this Court is Plaintiff's second Motion to Expedite and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and partial Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction.[1] For the reasons discussed below, this Court will deny Plaintiff's Motion to Expedite, grant Defendants' partial Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, and grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         In October 1989, Plaintiff Uchenna Obianyo, a native and citizen of Nigeria, entered the United States on a visitor visa. (Defs.' Ex. B.) In April 1992, Plaintiff married a U.S. citizen in Tennessee. Plaintiff was granted Legal Permanent Resident (“LPR”) status May 10, 1994. (Defs.' Ex. A.)

         While residing in Tennessee, Plaintiff was charged with three counts of stalking under Tennessee Code Annotated § 39017-315 on January 27, 1996. He pled guilty before the General Sessions Court of Davidson County, Tennessee in February 1997. (Defs.' Ex. C.) As part of the special conditions of his sentence, Plaintiff was ordered to reside with or be supervised by family members in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Id. In April 2000, Plaintiff was again charged with stalking, this time under 18 Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes § 2709.1. (Defs.' Ex. D.) Plaintiff pled guilty to stalking before the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. (Defs.' Ex. D.)

         In April 1999, Plaintiff filed the first of five Applications for Naturalization, Form N-400, (“Form One”). Plaintiff withdrew Form One on January 18, 2001. (Defs.' SOMF ¶ 7.) That same month, Plaintiff was issued a Notice to Appear (“I-862”) that alleged Plaintiff was removable under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E)(i) (allowing removal of an alien when convicted of the crime of stalking); additional removability charges were added in July 2001 under 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(ii) (allowing removal of an alien when convicted of “two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, not arising out of a single scheme of criminal misconduct”). (Defs. Ex. F.)

         Immigration Judge Walter A. Durling (“IJ Durling”) issued a removal order on October 2, 2001. (Defs.' Ex. G.) Plaintiff was again found removable on April 29, 2004 by IJ Durling but was granted withholding and deferred removal under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.[2] 8 C.F.R. § 208.16(c) (regarding withholding removal); 8 C.F.R. § 208.17(a) (regarding deferred removal); (Defs.' Ex. H.).

         Plaintiff filed his second Form-400 (“Form Two”) in September 2012; the third was filed in April 2013 (“Form Three”); the fourth was filed in January 2016 (“Form Four”); and the fifth, and final, (“Form Five”) was filed in April 2016. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USCIS Office denied Plaintiff's Form Two and Form Three in November 2013. In August 2014, Plaintiff filed a Request for Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (“Form N-336”) which was denied by the Philadelphia Office in December 2014. Plaintiff's Form Four and Form Five were denied by the Mt. Laurel, New Jersey USCIS Office in August 2016. Plaintiff did not file a Form N-336 to appeal the applications denied by the Mt. Laurel Office.

         Plaintiff filed his initial complaint alleging he was wrongfully denied naturalization and citizenship on March 3, 2017, seeking relief (1) in the form of an appeal of the USCIS decisions denying his applications for naturalization because of his previous criminal convictions and deportation proceedings and (2) petitioning for mandamus to compel USCIS officers to administer the Oath of Citizenship and grant Plaintiff his Certificate of Citizenship.

         This Court granted Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis on January 3, 2018. Plaintiff filed his first Motion to Expedite in March 2018, which was denied, without prejudice, by this Court's April 6, 2018 Order. On July 13, 2018 Defendants filed an amended Motion for Summary Judgment and partial Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction. Plaintiff filed his second Motion to Expedite on September 14, 2018 (“Pl.'s Resp. A”) which was unopposed by Defendant. The Court received a letter from Plaintiff on October 11, 2018 (“Pl.'s Resp. B”) which - together with Plaintiff's September 14, 2018 Motion to Expedite - this Court construes as a response to the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         The Court finds these issues fully briefed and ripe for adjudication. The Court construes Plaintiff's complaint and responses as (1) an appeal of the USCIS decision denying his applications for naturalization and (2) a request for mandamus ordering an officer of USCIS to administer the Oath of Citizenship and granting Plaintiff his Certificate of Citizenship.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         The denial of a naturalization application is reviewed de novo. 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c). The applicant has the burden of proving “by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she meets all the requirements for naturalization.” Ijomah-Nwosu v. Holder, No. 14-2527, 2015 WL 5097925, at *1 (D.N.J. Aug. 31, 2015) (citing 8 C.F.R. § 316.2(b)). In conducting its review, the Court is not bound by the factual or legal conclusions of the USCIS. 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c); see also, Shah v. Thompson, No. 11-3082, 2012 WL 6131122, at *1 (D.N.J. Dec. 10, 2012) (citing Busta ...


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