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Mathin v. Kerry

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

April 7, 2015

MOHAMED ABDUL MATHIN, Plaintiff-Appellant,
JOHN F. KERRY, Secretary of State, Defendant-Appellee

Argued: November 13, 2014.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:11-cv-05157 -- Joan Humphrey Lefkow, Judge.

For Mohamed Abdul Mathin, Plaintiff - Appellant: Justin R. Burton, Attorney, Kriezelman Burton & Associates, Chicago, IL.

For JOHN F. KERRY, Secretary of State, Defendant - Appellee: Craig A. Oswald, Attorney, Office of The United States Attorney, Chicago, IL; Stacey I. Young, Attorney, Department of Justice, Civil Division, Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC.

Before POSNER, KANNE, and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.


Page 805

Rovner, Circuit Judge.

Mohamed Abdul Mathin claims that he was born in the United States but his request for a United States passport was denied by the State Department after an investigation into his claim of citizenship. He then filed an action in district court under 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 2201(a) seeking a declaration that he is a United States national for the purpose of obtaining a United States passport. After a trial on the matter, the district court denied his request for declaratory relief, holding that Mathin had failed to establish that he was a United States national. Mathin now appeals that determination to this court.

Pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1503, any person who claims a right or privilege as a national of the United States and is denied such right or privilege can institute an action for a judgment declaring him to be a national of the United States. Section 1503 authorizes a de novo determination by the district court of the status of the plaintiff as a United States citizen or national. Hizam v. Kerry, 747 F.3d 102, 108 (2nd Cir. 2014). Because the Government has a " strong and legitimate interest in ensuring that only qualified persons are granted citizenship," the Supreme Court has recognized that " doubts 'should be resolved in

Page 806

favor of the United States.'" Berenyi v. District Director, Immigration and Naturalization Service, 385 U.S. 630, 637, 87 S.Ct. 666, 17 L.Ed.2d 656 (1967); Bustamante-Barrera v. Gonzales, 447 F.3d 388, 394-95 (5th Cir. 2006).

Mathin's action for a declaration of United States nationality is premised on the claim that his Indian-citizen parents, Mohamed Ziaudeen (" Ziaudeen" ) and Asiaumma Abdul Majid (" Asiaumma" ), traveled to the United States for business while his mother was 8 months pregnant with him, and that he was born prematurely in Chicago on September 23, 1965. The issue, then, is whether the district court erred in determining that Mathin had produced insufficient evidence that he was born in the United States. In this appeal following the bench trial, we review findings of fact for clear error and issues of law de novo. Cohen Development Co. v. JMJ Properties, Inc., 317 F.3d 729, 735 (7th Cir. 2003). We will consider a fact finding to be clearly erroneous only if, after reviewing all of the evidence, we are left with a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed. Id. ; Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, 470 U.S. 564, 573, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (2014).


Mathin maintains that his parents had traveled to the United States and were staying at the home of a friend, Thomas Nielsen, in Chicago, Illinois, when Mathin was born in that home on September 25, 1965. According to Mathin, a midwife, Margaret Roper, was present at the birth, as well as the midwife's 17-year-old niece Judith Roper (" Roper" ), Thomas Nielsen (" Nielsen" ), and Nielsen's mother Ina Nielsen, along with Mathin's mother and father. Of those individuals, only Mathin's father was still living at the time of the district court trial. Mathin further stated that after his birth, he was taken to Norwegian American Hospital for examination.

There are no contemporaneous records available supporting those events. No birth certificate was filed by his parents, the midwife, or the hospital. Mathin was unable to provide any records from Norwegian American Hospital indicating that he was examined there. Mathin testified that he tried to obtain such hospital records but that the hospital had experienced a flood and fire and his records could not be located. He did not provide any evidence from the hospital confirming that records from that time period had been destroyed, or that it had suffered a flood and fire. Furthermore, although the State Department attempted to verify the trip through the visa or passport records, it was unable to find any record of the trip.

Mathin testified that approximately a month after his birth, his mother returned to India with him. He maintained that he traveled on his mother's passport at that time, and that he continued to travel on his mother's Indian passport until his mother's death when he was 13 years old. At that time, his father obtained an Indian passport for him, which identified India as Mathin's place of birth.

Mathin traveled to the United States numerous times using his Indian passport during the 1990s. He resides in Florida with his wife and two children, all of whom are United States citizens. He applied for United States passports for his children in 1993 and 1995. Each time, he represented that he was born in India. The district court found credible Mathin's testimony that he represented his birthplace as India on the advice of his attorney because of his Indian passport.

Mathin applied for a delayed birth certificate with the State of Illinois in 1996, which was also ...

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