United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG United States District Judge
Ayman Aishat has been a legal permanent resident of the
United States since 1989 and applied for citizenship in 2000.
He has spent the two decades since waiting for a resolution.
Tired of living in limbo, Aishat recently filed this suit,
asking the Court to compel Defendant U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS) to resolve his naturalization
application in a timely fashion. The agency counters by
moving to dismiss one count of his Complaint for failure to
state a claim and then seeking to transfer the remainder to
the Eastern District of Texas. Persuaded on both grounds, the
Court will grant Defendants' Motion and send this case to
the Lone Star State.
to the Complaint, which the Court must presume true at this
stage, Aishat is a citizen of Jordan and first entered this
country on a student visa in 1989. See Compl.,
¶¶ 3, 18. He later received a green card through
his employer and currently works as a wireless-network
engineer. Id., ¶ 18. Plaintiff has also married
a U.S. citizen with whom he has three U.S.-citizen children.
Id., ¶ 19. On June 6, 2000, he too sought
citizenship, filing his N-400 naturalization application with
USCIS. Id., ¶ 20. Over the ensuing 18 years,
his application has encountered several snares. After
interviewing Aishat at the USCIS Dallas Field Office on
January 23, 2001, the agency took no action on his
application for the next seven years. Id.,
¶¶ 20, 21. On March 6, 2008, the Dallas Office
scheduled another interview with Plaintiff. Id.,
¶ 21. Three more years passed before USCIS denied his
naturalization application, id., ¶ 22, claiming
he had failed to disclose his past affiliation with an
organization known as the Holy Land Foundation (which the
Treasury Department lists as a fundraising arm for “a
terrorist organization, ” Harakat al-Muqawama
al-Islamiya). See MTD, Exh. A (N-400 Denial) at 2-4.
31, 2011, Aishat filed an N-336 naturalization appeal and has
since repeatedly requested that the agency provide any
adverse evidence used to deny his original application.
See Compl., ¶ 23. USCIS ignored those requests.
Id. Instead, it scheduled another interview at the
Dallas Office in November of that year and then issued a
request for more information related to his application.
Id., ¶¶ 24, 25. Specifically, it sought
“a list of organizations of which Plaintiff had ever
been a member of or affiliated with.” Id.,
¶ 25. Aishat timely complied with all requests by
February 2012. Id.
stayed silent for the next five years, id., ¶
26, and Plaintiff, understandably fed up with the delay,
filed suit in this Court, naming as Defendants: the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security; USCIS; Kirstjen Nielsen, the
Secretary of Homeland Security; L. Francis Cissna, the
Director of USCIS; William Bierman, the Director of the
Dallas Field Office; and Tracy Tarango, Acting Director of
USCIS District 33. His Complaint includes four counts: (1) a
mandamus claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1361, asking the Court
to compel Defendants to promptly adjudicate his N-336
naturalization appeal; (2) allegations that USCIS's
“unreasonably delayed” action violated the
Administrative Procedure Act; (3) allegations that the delay
violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA); and (4) a
request for a declaratory judgment under 28 U.S.C. §
spurred by the lawsuit, USCIS issued a notice asking Aishat
to provide his “biometrics” (including
fingerprinting) at the Dallas Field Office on December 28,
2017, before scheduling yet another interview at the same
location on January 25, 2018. See MTD, Exhs. B, C.
At the same time, it also moved to dismiss Count III of the
Complaint and then transfer the remaining counts to the
Eastern District of Texas. After setting out the applicable
legal standards, the Court addresses each of Defendants'
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of an action where a complaint fails “to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” In evaluating a
motion to dismiss, the Court must “treat the
complaint's factual allegations as true . . . and must
grant [P]laintiff ‘the benefit of all inferences that
can be derived from the facts alleged.'”
Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111,
1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Schuler v. United
States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979)) (citation
omitted); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v.
FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1250 (D.C. Cir. 2005). The pleading
rules are “not meant to impose a great burden upon a
plaintiff, ” Dura Pharm., Inc. v. Broudo, 544
U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and she must thus be given every
favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of
fact. Sparrow, 216 F.3d at 1113.
“detailed factual allegations” are not necessary
to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, id. at 555,
“a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). The
Court need not accept as true, then, “a legal
conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” nor an
inference unsupported by the facts set forth in the
Complaint. Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456
F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (internal quotation
marks omitted)). For a plaintiff to survive a 12(b)(6) motion
even if “recovery is very remote and unlikely, ”
the facts alleged in the complaint “must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236
§ 1404 Transfer of Venue
28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), venue will lie in any district
where (1) the defendant resides, (2) a substantial part of
the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or
(3) if there is no other district where suit may be brought,
where the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction. Even
if a case is properly venued, however, it need not
necessarily remain there. A district court may, “for
the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interests of
justice . . .[, ] transfer [it] . . . to any other district .
. . where it might have been brought.” 28 U.S.C. §
1404(a). District courts have “discretion . . . to
adjudicate motions for transfer according to an
‘individualized, case-by-case consideration of
convenience and fairness.'” Stewart Org., Inc.
v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988) (quoting Van
Dusen v. Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 622 (1964)).
suit revolves around the USCIS Dallas Field Office's
delay in processing his naturalization application.
Defendants, contending that this Dallas-centric action
belongs in the Eastern District of Texas, ask this Court to
transfer it there. Before it does so, however, they also seek
dismissal of Count III, which alleges that the agency's
delay violated the INA. While the D.C. Circuit has counseled
that “normally, ” a court should “be
inclined to transfer the entire case, ” it need not
“follow that path when briefing and argument in [the]
court have convinced [it] that [a plaintiff] has stated no
claim” against the defendant. See Cameron v.
Thornburgh, 983 F.2d 253, 258 n.5 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Such
is the case here, as the Government presents a
straightforward case for dismissal of one count. The Court
thus begins its analysis there before addressing
Defendants' Motion to Transfer.
Dismissal Under Rule 12(b)(6)
Count III, Plaintiff alleges that “[b]y refusing to
adjudicate [his] N-336 naturalization appeal, Defendants are
depriving [him] of his statutory right under the INA to seek
judicial review of the denial of his N-400 naturalization
application.” Compl., ¶ 40. By way of background,
an applicant for naturalization initiates the process by
submitting USCIS's Form N-400. See 8 U.S.C.
§ 1446. When, as here, the agency issues an adverse
decision, the applicant can appeal it by requesting a hearing
before an immigration officer within 30 days of denial.
See 8 U.S.C. § 1447(a). Upon receipt of the
administrative appeal (also known as the N-336 Form), the
agency must schedule a review hearing within “180 days