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Ayala v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

United States District Court, E.D. California

July 14, 2017

VERONICA CORONA AYALA, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC., 23)

         This is an action for declaratory relief in which Plaintiff Veronica Corona Ayala (“Ayala”) petitions for de novo review of the denial by Defendants United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) et al. (“Defendants”) of her Application for Naturalization Services and Request for Hearing pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c). Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion will be granted.

         LEGAL FRAMEWORK

         Summary judgment is proper when it is demonstrated that there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Fortyune v. American Multi-Cinema, Inc., 364 F.3d 1075, 1080 (9th Cir. 2004). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying the portions of the declarations (if any), pleadings, and discovery that demonstrate an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 509 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007). A fact is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); United States v. Kapp, 564 F.3d 1103, 1114 (9th Cir. 2009). A dispute is “genuine” as to a material fact if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Freecycle Sunnyvale v. Freecycle Network, 626 F.3d 509, 514 (9th Cir. 2010).

         Where the moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant must affirmatively demonstrate that no reasonable trier of fact could find other than for the movant. Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. Where the non-moving party will have the burden of proof on an issue at trial, the movant may prevail by presenting evidence that negates an essential element of the non-moving party's claim or by merely pointing out that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the non-moving party's claim. See James River Ins. Co. v. Herbert Schenk, P.C., 523 F.3d 915, 923 (9th Cir. 2008); Soremekun, 509 F.3d at 984. If a moving party fails to carry its burden of production, then “the non-moving party has no obligation to produce anything, even if the non-moving party would have the ultimate burden of persuasion.” Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Fritz Cos., 210 F.3d 1099, 1105-06 (9th Cir. 2000). If the moving party meets its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103. The opposing party cannot “‘rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading' but must instead produce evidence that ‘sets forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Estate of Tucker v. Interscope Records, 515 F.3d 1019, 1030 (9th Cir. 2008).

         The opposing party's evidence is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences that may be drawn from the facts placed before the court must be drawn in favor of the opposing party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587; Narayan v. EGL, Inc., 616 F.3d 895, 899 (9th Cir. 2010). While a “justifiable inference” need not be the most likely or the most persuasive inference, a "justifiable inference" must still be rational or reasonable. See Narayan, 616 F.3d at 899. Summary judgment may not be granted “where divergent ultimate inferences may reasonably be drawn from the undisputed facts.” Fresno Motors, LLC v. Mercedes Benz USA, LLC, 771 F.3d 1119, 1125 (9th Cir. 2015). If the nonmoving party fails to produce evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact, the moving party is entitled to summary judgment. Nissan Fire, 210 F.3d at 1103.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND [1]

         1. Undisputed Facts

         Ayala is the holder of a green card who seeks to naturalize. JSUF 1. Ayala obtained her lawful permanent resident (“LPR”) status as the result of a family petition filed by her then-LPR father. JSUF 2. Specifically, Ayala's father filed an I-130 visa petition on behalf of his spouse, Margarita Corona Ayala, who in turn listed Ayala as her child, thereby making Ayala eligible for derivative classification. JSUF 2. The Department of State allocated to Ayala an immigrant visa number under 8 U.S.C. § 1153(a)(2) and (d), as the child or a beneficiary of a form I-130 filed by an LPR. Approval of the form I-130 was essential to Ayala's eligibility. JSUF 3.

         After filing the petition, Ayala's father was convicted of possession of heroin for sale and placed in removal proceedings. JSUF 4. An immigration judge found Ayala's father removable, and though he appealed the decision, the appeal was dismissed for abandonment. JSUF 5. Ayala's father's removal order became final in 2000, and his LPR status terminated at that same time. JSUF 6.

         Two years later, in 2002, Ayala applied for and received LPR status. JSUF 7. This grant of LPR status was based on an error by USCIS, because the father's petition on behalf of the mother was automatically revoked prior to Ayala's application. JSUF 8. When her father's LPR status terminated, the form I-130 he had filed was also revoked by operation of law. JSUF 8. An additional error by USCIS in granting Ayala's LPR application was in the I-864 Affidavit of Support filed by her father. JSUF 9. Because he was no longer in valid LPR status himself, he no longer met the criteria for filing an affidavit of support for a family-based petition. JSUF 9.

         In 2004, USCIS recognized the error in granting Ayala's LPR application and issued a Notice of Intent to Rescind (“Notice”). JSUF 10. Ayala received USCIS's Notice and responded. JSUF 10. However, USCIS did not then refer Ayala to an immigration judge for a hearing as required by 8 C.F.R. § 246.3. JSUF 10. The five-year statutory window for rescinding Ayala's LPR status has now passed. JSUF 10. Ayala remains a lawful permanent resident. JSUF 10. USCIS is not challenging Ayala's LPR status in any forum. JSUF 10.

         In 2015, Ayala applied for naturalization. JSUF 11. USCIS denied the application that same year, stating its position that the requirement of having been lawfully admitted for permanent residence has not been met. JSUF 11. Ayala filed an administrative appeal, and USCIS issued a written decision. JSUF 12. USCIS affirmed its decision that because Ayala was not lawfully admitted for permanent residence, she is ineligible for naturalization. JSUF 12.

         2. Procedural Background

         On June 9, 2016, Ayala filed a petition for de novo review on the denial of her application for naturalization and request for a hearing. Doc. No. 1. Thereafter, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to F.R.C.P. 12(B)(6). Doc. No. 10. On October 19, 2016, this Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss. Doc. No. 16. On April 25, 2017, Defendants filed the pending motion for summary judgment. Doc. No. 23. After full briefing, the Court allowed the parties to each file a sur-reply. Doc. No. 27.

         DEFENDANTS' MOTION

         Defendants' ...


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