United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
DISMISS FOR LACK OF SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ahmed Zaki Dawood Al-Haddad has brought this lawsuit under
the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et
seq., to challenge the denial of his 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 his 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.
Ahmed Zaki Dawood Al-Haddad (“Al-Haddad”) is an
Iraqi national who lives in Baghdad. See 2014
Request for Review, Compl. Ex. 4, at 1, ECF No. 1-4.
Al-Haddad and his family have a history of involvement with
U.S.-led and funded efforts in Iraq since at least 2007.
See Id. at 1-2. In 2007, Al-Haddad and his family
were forced to temporarily relocate to Syria after a failed
kidnapping attempt on one of his family members caused by his
older brother's work in the International Zone in
Baghdad. Id. at 2. Between 2009 and 2013, Al-Haddad
himself worked as a network engineer on a number of U.S.
government contracts in the International Zone. Id.
at 1. Al-Haddad also acted as a translator for Reuters'
chief bureau officer in Baghdad during that time.
Id. And between at least February and September
2014, Al-Haddad worked as a Communications Officer with the
U.S. Agency for International Development. Id. at 8.
As a result of their work in the International Zone and on
U.S.-led projects, both Al-Haddad, his family, and his
co-workers were targeted for reprisals on numerous occasions
over the years. See Id. at 2. Aside from the 2007
kidnapping attempt, Al-Haddad and his family were threatened
on several occasions between 2009 and 2012. Id.
After several of Al-Haddad's family members were admitted
to the United States as refugees in 2012, threats against
Al-Haddad and his older brother continued. Id. at
applied for refugee resettlement in the United States at some
point in 2010 or earlier. See Id. at 2. 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 June 16, 2014, the
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
(“USCIS”) issued Al-Haddad a notice of
ineligibility for resettlement. Compl. at 5; 2014 Notice of
Ineligibility, Compl. Ex. 1, at 1, ECF No. 1-1. The notice
explained that Al-Haddad's application for refugee
resettlement under § 207 of the INA had “been
denied as a matter of discretion for security-related
reasons.” 2014 Notice of Ineligibility at 2.
September 8, 2014, Al-Haddad filed a request for review of
the denial, attaching a number of documents in support.
Compl. at 5; see generally 2014 Request for Review.
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
at 3, ECF No. 7. In this case, USCIS initially responded to
the request for review on September 11, 2017, overturning the
denial of the request for resettlement and indicating that
Al-Haddad was “now conditionally eligible for
resettlement, pending all necessary . . . security
clearances.” Sept. 11, 2017 Request for Review
Response, Compl. Ex. 9, at 1, ECF No. 1-9. However, just nine
days later on September 20, 2017, USCIS issued Al-Haddad a
second notice of ineligibility for resettlement, referencing
both his initial application for refugee resettlement and his
request for review. Compl. at 7; Sept. 20, 2017 Notice of
Ineligibility, Compl. Ex. 10, at 1, ECF No. 1-10. As with the
2014 notice, USCIS indicated that “[a]fter a review of
all the information concerning [Al-Haddad's] case,
” his application for refugee resettlement had been
denied “as a matter of discretion for security
reasons.” Sept. 20, 2017 Notice of Ineligibility at 2.
March 24, 2018, Al-Haddad brought suit against various U.S.
government officials, alleging that the denial of his 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. 7. Al-Haddad filed his
opposition on August 6, 2018, Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n Mot.
Dismiss at 1, ECF No. 10, and Defendants filed their reply on
August 17, 2018, Defs.' Reply at 1, ECF No. 12. The
motion to dismiss is now ripe for consideration.
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).
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
challenges the discretionary denial of his refugee
resettlement application pursuant to 8 U.S.C. §
1157(c)(1). He brings this challenge under § 702 of the
APA, arguing that the denial caused a legal wrong that
entitles him to judicial review. Compl. at 3 (citing 5 U.S.C.
§ 702). Defendants argue that the Court does not have
jurisdiction over Al-Haddad's 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.
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. § ...