United States District Court, District of Columbia
G. SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
August 18, 2015, Yue Zhang filed a naturalization application
with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
(“USCIS”). Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1; Decl. of
Kimberly J. Zanotti (“Zanotti Decl.”), ECF No.
4-1 ¶ 2. As part of the application process, USCIS
interviewed her on December 21, 2015. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1;
Zanotti Decl., ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 3. In March 2016, USCIS
issued Ms. Zhang a Notice of Intent to Deny
(“NOID”) her application and gave her 30 days to
file a rebuttal to that NOID. Zanotti Decl., ECF No. 4-1
¶ 4. Ms. Zhang submitted her rebuttal in April 2016.
Zanotti Decl., ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 5; see Pl.’s
Opp. to Def.’s Mot. to Remand to USCIS
(“Pl.’s Opp.”), ECF No. 6 at 1.
Zhang then heard nothing further from USCIS concerning her
application, so on April 18, 2017, proceeding pro
se, she initiated this lawsuit pursuant to 8 U.S.C.
§ 1447(b). See Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1-2. Ms.
Zhang requests that the Court “grant [her] . . .
citizenship” as soon as possible. Id. at 2.
Ms. Zhang has also moved the Court to expedite her case.
Pl.’s Mot. to Expedite, ECF No. 3. USCIS opposes that
motion and has moved the Court to remand this matter to USCIS
so that USCIS can expeditiously render a final decision
concerning Ms. Zhang’s application. See
Def.’s Mot. for Remand and Opp. to Pl.’s Mot. to
Expedite (“Def.’s Mot.”), ECF No. 4 at 1.
USCIS has represented to the Court that it will issue such a
decision within 21 days of the Court remanding this matter.
Zanotti Decl., ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 8. Ms. Zhang opposes remand
because USCIS has not promised that its final decision will
result in her attaining citizenship. Pl.’s Opp., ECF
No. 6 at 1. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Ms.
Zhang’s motion to expedite and GRANTS USCIS’s
motion to remand.
USCIS fails to render a decision concerning a naturalization
application before the end of the 120-day period after the
date on which the “examination” of the applicant
called for by 8 U.S.C. § 1446 is conducted, an applicant
may apply to the appropriate district court “for a
hearing on the matter.” 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b). USCIS
concedes that the relevant “examination” took
place when USCIS interviewed Ms. Zhang on December 21, 2015.
See Def.’s Mot., ECF No. 4 at 2. Thus there is
no dispute that more than 120 days have elapsed since the
“examination” and, accordingly, that §
1447(b) vests this Court with “jurisdiction over the
matter.” See 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b). Even so,
§ 1447(b) provides that when a district court has
jurisdiction it “may either determine the matter or
remand the matter, with appropriate instructions, to [USCIS]
to determine the matter.” Id. “Thus, it
is entirely within the discretion of the court to either deny
the motion to remand . . . or grant the motion to remand and
allow the naturalization petition to be adjudicated by the
USCIS.” Abusamhadneh v. Napolitano, No.
10-111, 2010 WL 1734772, at *1 (E.D. Va. Apr. 26, 2010).
“The vast majority of district courts remand lawsuits
filed under § 1447(b) for USCIS to decide in the first
instance whether to grant or deny an application for
naturalization.” Gill v. Crawford, No.
15-1633, 2016 WL 880952, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 8, 2016). This
Court joins that majority here.
makes sense in this instance first and foremost for reasons
of agency expertise. “Generally speaking, a court . . .
should remand a case to an agency for decision of a matter
that statutes place primarily in agency hands.” INS
v. Ventura, 537 U.S. 12, 16 (2002) (per curiam).
“This principle has obvious importance in the
immigration context.” Id. at 16-17. And this
principle is readily applicable here: USCIS is better
equipped than this Court to make a decision concerning a
naturalization application, at least in the first instance.
See Rashid v. Dep’t of Homeland Sec.,
No. 14-2109, 2017 WL 1398847, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Apr. 19, 2017)
(“USCIS is better equipped to handle these cases and
has more expertise than district courts in adjudicating
applications.”); Manzoor v. Chertoff, 472
F.Supp.2d 801, 808 (E.D. Va. 2007) (explaining that
“the review of the results of the mandatory background
checks and any follow-up questioning of an applicant are best
left to [US]CIS”).
given that USCIS has informed the Court that it will render a
final decision concerning Ms. Zhang’s application
within 21 days of remand, see Zanotti Decl., ECF No.
4-1 ¶ 8, the most efficient disposition of the
application is to remand to USCIS. The prompt decision that
USCIS has promised to render strongly weighs in favor of
remand. See Rashid, 2017 WL 1398847, at *2
(“In the few cases where a district court opted to
adjudicate the matter itself, . . . the defendants failed to
assure the court that a swift decision could be made on
USCIS’s ultimate decision might be to deny Ms.
Zhang’s application does not weigh against remand.
See Pl.’s Opp., ECF No. 6 at 1. If
USCIS’s decision turns out to be unfavorable to Ms.
Zhang, she “may request a hearing before an immigration
officer,” see 8 U.S.C. § 1447(a), and
then, in the event that the decision remains unfavorable, she
may seek de novo review in the appropriate district
court. See 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c).
for the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES Ms. Zhang’s
motion to expedite and GRANTS USCIS’s motion to remand.