United States District Court, N.D. California
October 18, 2005.
PUSHPA DEVI, Plaintiff,
EDUARDO AGUIRRE, JR., Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: JEFFREY WHITE, District Judge
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND
DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Now before the Court is the motion for summary judgment filed
by Plaintiff Pushpa Devi and the motion for summary judgment by
Defendant Eduardo Aguirre, Jr., Director of the United States
Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"). Having carefully
reviewed the parties' arguments, the relevant legal authority and
having had the benefit of oral argument, the Court hereby GRANTS
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and DENIES Defendant's
motion for summary judgment.
According to the administrative record in this matter,
Plaintiff Devi, a citizen of India, was admitted to the United
States as an asylee on June 27, 1996 in accordance with
8 U.S.C. § 1158(c), on the basis of an asylee relative petition filed on
her behalf by her asylee father. On October 25, 2000, while her
application to adjust her status from asylee to an alien lawfully
admitted for permanent residence was pending, Defendant informed
Devi that she was no longer eligible for an adjustment of status
because she had reached the age of majority. Defendant sent an asylum application to Devi and informed her that she had to
apply on her own as an asylee. On November 20, 2000, Devi
complied and submitted her application for asylum under
8 U.S.C. § 1158(a).
On October 26, 2001, Devi married Kamlesh Kumar Toora, also a
native and citizen of India.
On June 18, 2002, USCIS sent Devi a letter granting her asylum
application under 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a) and informed her that her
asylum status was granted nunc pro tunc to June 27, 1996, the
date she was originally granted derivative asylum status. The
letter informed her that her asylee status entitled her to apply
for immigration benefits, including petitioning to accord her
spouse derivative asylum status under 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(3)(A).
On January 27, 2004, Devi petitioned to accord her husband
derivative asylum status. On January 20, 2004, USCIS adjusted
Devi's status to a lawful permanent resident under
8 U.S.C. § 1159(b).
Finally, on March 7, 2004, USCIS denied Devi's asylee relative
petition on the basis that, pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 208.21(b),
Devi was not eligible to petition to accord her husband following
to join benefits because her petition was filed more than two
years after the date she was granted asylum. The denial explained
that Devi's petition was untimely because the letter dated June
18, 2002 reflected a grant of asylum nunc pro tunc back to June
27, 1996, the date of her arrival in the United States. Although
the petition on behalf of her husband was filed less than two
years from the date of the letter informing her of the asylum
status, the petition was denied because it was filed more than
two years from the actual date of asylum due to the mechanism of
backdating the grant of asylum status.*fn1
According to Defendant's motion for summary judgment and
opposition to Plaintiff's motion, Devi was not eligible for
following to join benefits on behalf of her husband because she failed to petition within two years of the actual grant of
asylum. This reasoning is the same explanation from the agency
itself for the denial of plaintiff's petition. Defendant contends
that the Court is required to accord deference to the agency's
interpretation of its own statutes and regulations.*fn2
Plaintiff was granted aslyee status under 8 U.S.C. § 1158(a)
and was instructed that she was entitled to petition for
following to join benefits under 8 U.S.C. § 1158(b)(3)(A). This
provision states that a spouse or child of an alien who is
granted asylum may be granted the same status as the alien if
accompanying, or following to join, such alien. The Code of
Federal Regulations provides that "the asylee may request
accompanying or following-to-join benefits for his/her spouse or
child by filing for each qualifying family member a separate Form
I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition, and supporting evidence
. . . within 2 years of the date in which he/she was granted
asylum status." 8 C.F.R. § 208.21(c). Defendant contends that
because Plaintiff failed to petition for following to join
benefits within two years of the nunc pro tunc date of her
asylum, she was properly denied the additional benefits.
However, Defendant's construction of 8 U.S.C. § 1158 and
8 C.F.R. § 208.21(c) creates a Kafkaesque predicament. According to
Defendant, in order to qualify for following to join benefits,
Devi would have had to apply within two years of her post-dated
grant of asylum, or by June 1998. Devi was neither a child, nor
married at that time, and further, was not aware that she would
be granted asylum as a principal until June 2002 when she
received the letter granting her asylum application. Courts
should reject interpretations of statutes or regulations which
produce an unjust, unreasonable, or absurd result. Maceren v.
District Directo, Immigration and Naturalization Service,
509 F.2d 934, 941 (9th Cir. 1975) (citing In re Petition of
Vacontios, 155 F. Supp. 427, 430 (S.D.N.Y. 1957)). Further, there is no evidence in the record or in the
legislative history that the legal fiction of postdating
Plaintiff's grant of asylum nunc pro tunc was intended to
preclude her from receiving other benefits. According to the
administrative record, the policy of granting asylum nunc pro
tunc was adopted in order to benefit qualified children
applicants who would otherwise age out of their parents' approved
asylum applications. There is no evidence of any intent by USCIS
to affect negatively the proper adjudication of an asylum case.
Defendant's interpretation of the statutes and regulations, as
well as the legal mechanism for properly adjudicating qualified
applicants, renders an improper and facially absurd result.
Devi's asylum application was approved by Defendant on July 18,
2002. She was married at the time of the asylum adjudication.
Further, Devi applied for benefits for her husband within two
years of the notice that her asylum application was granted, as
directed by the USCIS. Therefore, the decision by the agency to
reject the asylee relative petition for following to join
benefits for Plaintiff's husband was in error.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiff's
motion for summary judgment and DENIES Defendant's motion for
summary judgment. Judgment shall be entered in favor of Plaintiff
and against Defendant.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
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