United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO
William T. Lawrence, Judge.
cause is before the Court on the Defendants’ motion to
dismiss (Dkt. No. 10). The motion is fully briefed, and the
Court, being duly advised, GRANTS the Defendants’
motion for the reasons and to the extent set forth below.
Plaintiff is a citizen of India. He entered the United States
in 2011 as an R-1 nonimmigrant religious worker employed by
the Sikh Society of Wisconsin-Madison. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 100.
On May 29, 2012, the United States Citizenship and
Immigration Services (“USCIS”) approved a Form
I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, for the
Plaintiff’s employment with Gurdwara Shri Guru
Hargobind Sahib Ji Corporation in Greenwood, Indiana.
Id. Gurdwara Shri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji
Corporation later filed a Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian,
Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, on the Plaintiff’s
behalf. The Form I-360 was approved for the Plaintiff’s
employment as a Special Immigrant Religious Worker for
Gurdwara Shri Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji Corporation.
See Dkt. No. 1-1 at 23.
April 15, 2014, the Plaintiff filed a Form I-485, Application
to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
(“I-485 Application”), in which he sought to
adjust his status in the United States to that of a lawful
permanent resident. See Dkt. No. 1-1 at 30. On
October 17, 2014, USCIS denied the Plaintiff’s I-485
Application. It reasoned that, because the Plaintiff received
room and board, donations, and gifts from Sikh temples other
than his employer, things it considered remuneration for
work, he was employed by those temples and thus
“engaged in unauthorized employment for more than 180
days while in R-1 status and therefore [did] not qualify for
adjustment of status to permanent resident.” Compl.
¶¶ 13, 15.
Plaintiff contends that he never engaged in unauthorized
employment and qualified for adjustment of status”
because “the R-1 employer directed every major facet of
the work of [the] Plaintiff, even when he was assigned to
conduct religious services at sister [t]emples.” Comp.
¶¶ 14, 16, respectively. He further contends that
“[a]nything provided to [him] at those [t]emples would
have been provided to any individual who would have visited
any of the [t]emples or would have been provided to a Sikh
[p]riest as a matter of religious rite following the
traditions and tenants of the Sikh religion . . . . [and] did
not constitute indicia of employment with the sister
[t]emples.” Compl. ¶ 16.
three separate occasions, the Plaintiff moved to reopen or
reconsider the I-485 Application denial decision.
Plaintiff’s first request was granted, and the original
denial of the I- 485 Application was affirmed. See
Dkt. No. 1-1 at 44-46. USCIS found the Plaintiff’s
second motion to reopen or reconsider untimely. It
nonetheless stated that “[t]he evidence has been
reviewed despite the fact that your motion was received
untimely, ” and it rejected the motion. Dkt. No. 1-1 at
56-57. The Plaintiff’s third motion for reconsideration
was rejected because it was untimely filed and the Plaintiff
“ha[d] given no excusable reason for the delay.”
Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1.
December 4, 2015, the Plaintiff filed his Complaint for
declaratory and injunctive relief in this Court. He alleges
several claims: (1) his I-485 Application was denied in
violation of the APA (Count I); (2) the definition of
employment used in denying Religious Workers’ I-485
applications was created in violation of section 706 of the
APA and its rulemaking procedures (Count II); (3)
“[t]he USCIS creation and application of its own
‘employment’ definition, and its findings and its
conclusion that [the] Plaintiff engaged in unauthorized
employment” violated his right to the free exercise of
religion under the First Amendment (Count III); (4) these
same things violated his rights under the Religious Freedom
Restoration Act (Count IV); (5) he was denied due process in
violation of the Fifth Amendment because the USCIS relied on
evidence not presented to the Plaintiff in denying his I-485
Application and also because the issue was not addressed in
his most recent motion to reopen the decision on his I-485
Application (Count V); and (6) the Defendants should be estopped
from examining whether he engaged in unauthorized employment
because the issue was fully addressed when his Form I-360 was
approved (Count VI).
January 6, 2016, the United States Department of Homeland
Security issued to the Plaintiff a Notice to Appear in
removal proceedings. See Dkt. No. 10-3. His hearing
before the Immigration Court was scheduled for May 11, 2016,
Dkt. No. 10-4 at 2, but has since been rescheduled for
November 29, 2019, Dkt. No. 14 at 3.
Defendants ask this Court to dismiss the Plaintiff’s
claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction or Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted. “[A] court must dismiss the case
without ever reaching the merits if it concludes that it has
no jurisdiction.” Capitol Leasing Co. v.
F.D.I.C., 999 F.2d 188, 191 (7th Cir. 1993) (citation
omitted). Therefore, the Court first addresses the question
of subject matter jurisdiction. Under Rule 12(b)(1), the
Court may “look beyond the jurisdictional allegations
of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been
submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject
matter jurisdiction exists.” Id. (quotation
omitted). The Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing
jurisdiction. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504
U.S. 555, 561 (1992).
Defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter
jurisdiction because the Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies. The Administrative Procedures Act
(“APA”) allows judicial review for
“[a]gency action made reviewable by statute and final
agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy in
a court.” 5 U.S.C. § 704. The statutes named by
the Plaintiff, the Declaratory Judgment Act, the Immigration
and Nationality Act (“INA”), and the Mandamus
Act, do not confer jurisdiction over these
the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the
Plaintiff's request for declaratory judgment because the
Declaratory Judgment Act provides a judicial remedy only. It
does not confer subject matter jurisdiction. See,