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Haro v. Lynch

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 1, 2016

GLORIA PLASCENCIA-DE HARO, Plaintiff,
v.
LORETTA E. LYNCH, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND REMANDING FOR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS; DENYING AS MOOT MOTION TO STAY RE: DKT. NOS. 22, 26, 31

          HAYWOOD S. GILLIAM, JR. United States District Judge.

         Before the Court is Defendants’ motion for summary judgment as to the second cause of action in the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). Dkt. No. 22 (“Mot.”).[1] Plaintiff Gloria Plascencia-De Haro (“Plascencia”) opposed that motion, Dkt. No. 35 (“Opp.”) and Defendants filed a reply, Dkt. No. 36 (“Reply”). The Court held oral argument on the motion on September 3, 2015, and further discussed the motion with the parties on March 22, 2016. Having considered the arguments made by the parties in their briefs and at oral argument, the Court DENIES Defendants’ motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plascencia is a Mexican citizen who entered the United States in 1990 without inspection by an immigration officer. On March 18, 1994, Plascencia was the subject of a voluntary departure order, which required her to depart the United States on or before September 18, 1994. The voluntary departure order provided that if Plascencia failed to depart by that date, a deportation order would automatically come into effect.

         The parties dispute whether Plascencia departed the United States in compliance with the 1994 order. Plascencia asserts that she traveled to Mexico the day after it was issued and stayed with her mother in Compostela, Nayarit for one month. She alleges that she returned to the United States on April 19, 1994 after being waved through an official inspection point without being asked to show any documentation. Defendants assert that she never departed. According to Defendants, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issued a warrant of deportation for Plascencia on April 19, 1995.

         On February 25, 2013, Plascencia completed a Form I-485 Application for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident. Plascencia was arrested on March 4, 2013 for failure to depart as required by the 1994 voluntary departure order. She was released from custody pursuant to an order of supervision and testified under oath in support of her application for adjustment of status on August 5, 2013. That application was denied on December 2, 2013 on the ground that Plascencia had failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that she had departed the United States in 1994. Plascencia filed a motion to reopen and reconsider on December 22, 2013, which was denied on May 20, 2014.

         Plascencia filed this action on July 4, 2014. On September 19, 2014, USCIS reopened her application and immediately issued a notice re-closing the application for lack of jurisdiction given the pendency of alien in removal proceedings. Plascencia filed the FAC on October 29, 2014 to reflect this new administrative action. The remaining cause of action in the FAC alleges that the USCIS’s administrative closure of her application was arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.[2]

         II. SCOPE OF REVIEW UNDER THE ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE ACT

         Under the APA, a district court can set aside agency decisions only if the action is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). “The scope of our review under this standard is ‘narrow’; as we have often recognized, ‘a court is not to substitute its judgment for that of the agency.’” Judulang v. Holder, 132 S.Ct. 476, 483 (2011) (quoting Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983)). Nonetheless, when reviewing an agency action a court “must assess, among other matters, ‘whether the decision was based on a consideration of the relevant factors and whether there has been a clear error of judgment.’” Id. at 484 (quoting State Farm, 463 U.S. at 43). “That task involves examining the reasons for agency decisions-or, as the case may be, the absence of such reasons.” Id. “Agency action should be overturned only when the agency has ‘relied on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise.’” Pac. Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Ass’n, Inc. v. Nat’l Marine Fisheries Serv., 265 F.3d 1028, 1034 (9th Cir. 2001) (quoting State Farm, 463 U.S. at 43).

         III. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Courts routinely resolve APA challenges by summary judgment. Nw. Motorcycle Ass’n v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1481 (9th Cir. 1994). The district court “is not required to resolve any facts in a review of an administrative proceeding.” Occidental Eng’g Co. v. I.N.S., 753 F.2d 766, 769 (9th Cir. 1985). The purpose of the district court in deciding a motion for summary judgment, then, “is to determine whether or not as a matter of law the evidence in the administrative record permitted the agency to make the decision it did.” Id. An agency’s decision is arbitrary and capricious if it “offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise.” Sw. Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Serv., 100 F.3d 1443, 1448 (9th Cir. 1996).

         The agency’s findings are reviewed under the “substantial evidence” standard. Family Inc. v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., 469 F.3d 1313, 1315 (9th Cir. 2006). Under this standard, a court will not disturb an agency’s findings “unless the evidence presented would compel a reasonable finder of fact to reach a contrary result.” Monjaraz-Munoz v. I.N.S., 327 F.3d 892, 895 (9th Cir. 2003) (citation omitted).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue that the USCIS decision finding that it lacked jurisdiction to act on Plascencia’s I-485 Form is sufficiently detailed to satisfy the requirements of both the APA and applicable regulations. See 5 U.S.C. § 555(e) (requiring “a brief statement of the grounds for denial”); 8 C.F.R. § 103.3 (“When a Service officer denies an application or petition filed ...


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