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Singh v. Johnson

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 17, 2016

JEH JOHNSON, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, et al., Defendants.


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge.

         This cause is before the Court on the Defendants’ motion to dismiss (Dkt. No. 10).[2] 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.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The 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.

         On 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.

         “[The] 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.

         On 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.

         On 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);[3] 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).

         On January 6, 2016, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued to the Plaintiff a Notice to Appear in removal proceedings.[4] 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.

         II. STANDARD

         The 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).


         The 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 claims.[5]

         First, 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, ...

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