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Huang v. Napolitano

July 9, 2010

HONG HUANG, AN INDIVIDUAL ALSO KNOWN AS LINDA HUANG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JANET NAPOLITANO, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, AND MICHAEL AYTES, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ACTING DIRECTOR OF THE U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Hong Huang, also known as Linda Huang, filed the above-captioned action on May 10, 2010, seeking judicial review of the denial of her application for naturalization pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c). She has named as Defendants Janet Napolitano, in her official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), and Michael Aytes, in his official capacity as Acting Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") within DHS. Presently pending before the Court is Defendants' [11] Motion to Transfer. As set forth therein, Defendants urge the Court to transfer this civil action to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.*fn1 Plaintiff opposes the Motion. Upon thorough consideration of the parties' briefing, the relevant case law and statutory authority, as well as the record of this case as a whole, the Court finds that transfer to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida is appropriate and therefore shall GRANT Defendants' [11] Motion to Transfer for the reasons that follow.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is a national of China and currently resides in Aventura, Florida. Compl., Docket No. [1], ¶ 5. She first entered the United States on May 16, 1998, entering under a B-1 Visa, and has been a resident of the United States since that time. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10. In 2003, Plaintiff married a United States citizen, Zhi Wei Wu, in Miami, Florida. Defs.' Mot., Att. 4 (Declaration of Sergio Mateo) (hereinafter, "Mateo Decl."), ¶ 4.*fn2 On January 20, 2003, Wu filed a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) on Plaintiff's behalf, and Plaintiff concurrently filed an Application to Adjust Status to that of a Lawful Permanent Resident (Form I-485). Id. ¶ 4. Both the I-130 and the I-485 were filed with the USCIS District Office in Miami, Florida. Id. The Plaintiff's I-485 application was approved at the Miami Field Office on April 1, 2004. Id.

On January 27, 2009, Plaintiff filed an Application for Naturalization (Form N-400), with the National Benefits Center. Id. ¶ 5. Pursuant to USCIS standard operating procedures, Plaintiff's application was subsequently transferred to the field office having jurisdiction over the applicant's place of residence - here, the Miami Field Office - for adjudication. Id. Plaintiff appeared at the Miami Field Office for interviews in connection with her N-400 Application on September 22, 2009, and on January 14, 2010. Id. Plaintiff's N-400 Application was subsequently denied by the Miami Field Office Director on March 8, 2010. Id. On that same day, the Miami Field Office also issued Plaintiff a Notice to Appear, charging her with being removable from the United States. Id. ¶ 6. The Notice to Appear was based on the Miami Field Office's conclusion that Plaintiff had been inadmissible at the time of her adjustment of status in 2004 and was therefore removable pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(1)(a). Id. Plaintiff is currently scheduled to appear for a master calendar hearing in front of an Immigration Judge in Miami, Florida, on August 18, 2010, to begin removal proceedings. Id.

Plaintiff filed the above-captioned action on May 10, 2010. See generally Compl. As set forth in the Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the denial of her naturalization application was in error "because she was a lawfully admitted Permanent Resident of the United States at the time of her application; she satisfied the actual and continuous residency requirements; was of good moral character as defined in the INA and interpreted through the Code of Federal Regulations; and she met all of the other eligibility requirements for naturalization." Id. ¶ 16. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants unlawfully commenced removal proceedings by issuing the Notice to Appear simultaneously with the denial of her application for naturalization "for the purpose and intent of circumventing [Plaintiff's] statutory right to de novo review . . . of her naturalization application" before a United States District Court. Id. ¶ 28. According to Plaintiff, commencement of the removal proceedings deprived her of the right to further administrative or judicial review of the denial of her naturalization application, to which she has a statutory right; she asserts that the decision to issue the Notice to Appear concurrent with the denial of her naturalization application was therefore arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. Id. ¶¶ 28-30.

In Count I of her Complaint, Plaintiff seeks de novo review of the Miami Field Office Director's denial of her N-400 Application for Naturalization pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c) and a declaratory judgment that she is eligible for naturalization. Id. ¶¶ 1, 16, 18-22. In Count II, she seeks review of the Defendants' action pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, alleging that the decision denying her naturalization application and the decision to issue a Notice of Appearance simultaneously with the denial of her N-400 Application, which she alleges was done for the purpose of circumventing her statutory right to de novo review, were arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion. Id. ¶¶ 23-33. In Count III, Plaintiff seeks issuance of a preliminary injunction enjoining the removal proceedings in Miami, Florida, pending de novo review by the Court of Plaintiff's N-400 Application. Id. ¶ 46.*fn3

On June 25, 2010, Defendants filed the now-pending [11] Motion to Transfer, in which they assert that this case should be transferred to the Southern District of Florida pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). In filing their Motion, counsel for Defendants advised the Court that she had conferred with counsel for Plaintiff pursuant to Local Civil Rule 7(m) and had been advised that Plaintiff opposed the Motion to Transfer and also intended to file a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction to enjoin the removal proceedings in Miami, Florida, which are scheduled to begin on August 18, 2010. See Defs.' Mot. at 2. Accordingly, in an effort to ensure that the issues raised by the parties were resolved in an expeditious and efficient manner, the Court held an on-the-record telephone conference call with counsel for all parties on July 1, 2010. See July 1, 2010 Order, Docket No. [12]. At that time, the Court discussed the manner in which this case should proceed. The Court advised the parties that expedited briefing on Defendants' Motion to Transfer was necessary to ensure that this Court may resolve the question of venue in a timely manner and that Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction may be considered and resolved by the appropriate court without delay. Id. In addition, the Court set an expedited schedule for the briefing of Plaintiff's proposed motion for a preliminary injunction to assure that Plaintiff's motion would be fully briefed and ready for review - whether by this Court or by the Southern District of Florida - sufficiently in advance of the August 18, 2010 master calendar hearing at issue. Id.*fn4

Pursuant to that schedule, Plaintiff filed her [13] Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Transfer on July 6, 2010, and Defendants filed their [14] Reply in support of their Motion to Transfer on July 7, 2010. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion to Transfer is now fully briefed and ripe for the Court's resolution.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Defendants argue that this Court should exercise its discretion to transfer this case to the Southern District of Florida pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a), which states that "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." The Court is afforded broad discretion to decide whether transfer from one jurisdiction to another is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). SEC v. Savoy Indus. Inc., 587 F.2d 1149, 1154 (D.C. Cir. 1978) (quoting Norwood v. Kirkpatrick, 349 U.S. 29, 32 (1955)). The decision to transfer is made by an "individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness . . . ." Van Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964).

The Court must therefore initially determine whether this action "might have been brought" in the Southern District of Florida. Id. at 616. In an action brought against an officer or employee of the United States, venue is covered by 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e), which provides that:

A civil action in which a defendant is an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof acting in his official capacity or under color of legal authority, or an agency of the United States, or the United States, may, except as otherwise provided by law, be brought in any judicial district in which (1) a defendant in the action resides, (2) a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property ...


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