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Mohammed v. Sessions

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 16, 2019

SAMER ABDULRAZZAQ MOHAMMED, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, III, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiffs Samer Abdulrazzaq Mohammed and his family have brought this lawsuit under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., to challenge the denial of their application for refugee resettlement in the United States under Section 207 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1157. Defendants now move to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, arguing that the claims are non-justiciable and barred by longstanding principles of nonreviewability of visa denials. Because it lacks jurisdiction to review discretionary denials of refugee resettlement applications, the Court grants the motion to dismiss.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Samer Abdulrazzaq Mohammed (“Mohammed”) is an Iraqi national who lives in Baghdad with the four other plaintiffs in this case, his wife Hanan Hasan Salih and his three sons Mohammed Samer Abdulrazzaq, Ali Samer Abdulrazzaq, and Husain Samer Abdulrazzaq. See 2014 Request for Review Supporting Docs., Compl. Ex. 3, at 10-14, ECF No. 1-3; 2017 Marwa Samer Abdulrazzaq Letter, Compl. Ex. 7, at 1, ECF No. 1-7; 2017 Request for Review, Compl. Ex. 8, at 2, ECF No. 1-8. Mohammed is an engineer by profession. See 2014 Request for Review, Compl. Ex. 2, at 1, ECF No. 1-2. Between 2004 and 2009, Mohammed worked as a subcontractor on a number of projects in the International Zone in Baghdad, including at the United States Embassy. Id. at 2. As a result of his work in the International Zone, Mohammed was targeted for reprisals and forced to relocate multiple times between 2006 and 2009, including moving to Syria for two years between 2006 and 2008 after armed militia ransacked his home and threatened his family's life in July 2006. See Id. at 2-4.

         In 2009, Mohammed and his family applied for refugee resettlement in the United States through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Id. at 1. Under Section § 207 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 1157, the admission of refugees is committed to the discretion of the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. See 8 U.S.C. § 1157(c)(1); 6 U.S.C. § 557. On July 9, 2014, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issued Mohammed a notice of ineligibility for resettlement. Notice of Ineligibility, Compl. Ex. 1, at 1, ECF No. 1-1. The notice explained that Mohammed and his family's application for refugee resettlement under § 207 of the INA had “been denied as a matter of discretion for security-related reasons.” Id. at 2.

         The same month, Mohammed filed a request for review of the denial, attaching a number of documents in support. Compl. at 5; see generally 2014 Request for Review; 2014 Request for Review Supporting Docs. While there is no formal mechanism for review of refugee resettlement applications, see 8 U.S.C. § 1157; 8 C.F.R. § 207.4 (“There is no appeal from a denial of refugee status under this chapter”), USCIS considers informal requests for review of such denials in its discretion, see Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss 3, ECF No. 11. In this case, USCIS responded to the request for review in June 2015, upholding the denial because the request for review “did not contain any new information or an allegation of error in the adjudication of [Mohammed's] claim.” June 11, 2015 Request for Review Response, Compl. Ex. 4, at 1, ECF No. 1-4. Mohammed filed a renewed request for review in August 2015, which was denied in February 2017. 2017 Request for Review at 1. And finally, Mohammed submitted a final request for review in April 2017, Compl. at 6; 2017 Request for Review, which was denied by USCIS in September 2017, Compl. at 6.

         On December 12, 2017, Mohammed and his family brought suit against various U.S. government officials, alleging that the denial of the family's refugee resettlement application was an arbitrary and capricious decision in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”). Compl. at 2-3. On June 15, 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. See Defs.' Mot. Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 11. Plaintiffs filed their opposition on August 6, 2018, Pls.' Mem. Opp'n Mot. Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 14, and Defendants filed their reply on August 17, 2018, Defs.' Reply at 1, ECF No. 16. The motion to dismiss is now ripe for consideration.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) provides for the dismissal of an action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and it is generally presumed that “a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). Accordingly, it is imperative that this Court “begin, and end, ” with an examination of its jurisdiction. Gen. Motors Corp. v. EPA, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

         It is the plaintiff's burden to establish that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over his or her claims. Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). In determining whether the plaintiff has met this burden, a court must accept “the allegations of the complaint as true, ” Banneker Ventures, LLC v. Graham, 798 F.3d 1119, 1129 (D.C. Cir. 2015), and “construe the complaint liberally, granting the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged[, ]” Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, “the plaintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13-14 (D.D.C. 2001).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Plaintiffs challenge the discretionary denial of their refugee resettlement application pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1157(c)(1). They bring this challenge under § 702 of the APA, arguing that the denial caused a legal wrong that entitles them to judicial review. Compl. at 3 (citing 5 U.S.C. § 702). Defendants argue that the Court does not have jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' APA claims because the INA expressly divested courts of jurisdiction over discretionary decisions like refugee resettlement denials. Defs.' Mem. Supp. at 6. The Court agrees with Defendants, and accordingly grants the motion to dismiss.

         “The APA confers a general cause of action upon persons ‘adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute.'” Block v. Cmty. Nutrition Inst., 467 U.S. 340, 345 (1984) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 702). However, the APA “withdraws that cause of action to the extent the relevant statute ‘preclude[s] judicial review.'” Id. (alteration in original) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(1)). And the INA includes such a restriction on judicial review: it provides that “any . . . decision or action of . . . the Secretary of Homeland Security the authority for which is specified . . . to be in the discretion of the . . . . Secretary of Homeland Security” is not subject to judicial review by federal courts. 8 U.S.C. § ...


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