You have filed your immigration petition for your beautiful beloved with USCIS, but USCIS has been sitting on it. Rival suitors are knocking at your beloved’s door, saying “Your balikbayan lover is a fake. He has not filed a petition for you. It has been a year and you still have no news about it. Let us go out and have fun.”
Your beloved sends you the above Facebook message. What are you going to do? You are getting desperate. You cannot control the events happening abroad. What if your beloved succumbs to the temptation to go out with other suitors. What if ….. Patay kang bata ka.
Here is what you can do. First, follow up the petition with USCIS. Second, make an appointment on InfoPass to talk to an immigration officer in person. Write to your U.S. Senator or congressman to help find out the status of your petition? (Unfortunately in Hawaii, not one of them is a Republican, so your guess is as good as mine as to what weight they carry). All that USCIS says is that your petition is under process.
There is a book called “Sue the Bastards” by Gerard P. Fox. It analyzes the pros and cons of suing those who do you harm. After reading it, you feel like Hamlet – “To be or not to be.” (To sue or not to sue). If you really love your so-called “beloved” (wife or fiancée) and want to protect your interest, damn the cost and the problems of suing, just sue the USCIS for sitting on your immigration petition by using a mandamus action.
The term “mandamus” is a Latin word “we command”. “It is a writ or order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction that commands an inferior tribunal or individual to perform, or refrain from performing, a particular act, the performance or omission of which is required by law as an obligation.” The Free Dictionary by Farlex.
Under 28 U.S.C. §1361 “The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the United States or any agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the petitioner.”
This statute simply provides a forum for filing mandamus against an officer of the United States. However, it does not provide a legal ground for suing. The person suing, in this case the petitioner, must allege a legal basis for the suit and standing to bring it.
The Administrative Procedure Act (APA) 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq. provides a cause of action for the petitioner where the USCIS unreasonably delays the adjudication of a petition or application. “The APA requires federal administrative agencies to address matters presented to them within a reasonable time. 5 U.S.C. § 555(b) ("With due regard for the convenience and necessity of' the parties or their representatives and within a reasonable time, each agency shall proceed to conclude a matter presented to it. . . ."). The APA further states that federal courts "shall . . . compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed. . . ." 5 U.S.C. § 706(1). Belegradek v. Gonzalez, 523 F. Supp. 2d 1364 (N.D. Georgia)
In Razaq v. Poulos, No. 06-2461-WDB, 2007 WL 61884, at *3 (N.D.Cal. Jan. 8, 2007), the court said: "We find that the USCIS has a mandatory duty to decide whether to grant or deny 1-130 Petitions. . . . While the substance of the decision whether to grant or deny a petition obviously is discretionary, the duty to process the application is just as obviously ministerial." Thus, while mandamus is available to compel a USCIS officer to act on a petition, it cannot compel the officer to act or decide in a particular way, that is, it cannot compel the officer to grant the petition.
WHAT CONSTITUTES UNREASONABLE DELAY
"[T]here is no bright line rule as to when a delay on an application slips into the realm of unreasonableness." Linville, 489 F.Supp.2d at 1282 (quoting Elmalky v. Upchurch, No. 3:06-CV-2359-B, 2007 WL 944330, at *6 (N.D.Tex. Mar. 28, 2007)). In determining whether the Attorney General unreasonably delayed in adjudicating an application to adjust immigration status, courts have applied a rule of reason, considering: (1) the source of the delay, (2) the complexity of the investigation, (3) whether any party participated in delaying the proceeding, (4) the nature and extent of the interests prejudiced by the delay, and (5) whether expediting action on agency activities will have an adverse affect on higher or competing priorities. See Linville, 489 F.Supp.2d at 1282-83; Razaq, 2007 WL 61884, at *6; Bartolini v. Ashcroft, 226 F.Supp.2d 350, 354 (D.Conn.2002).” Belegradek v. Gonzalez, 523 F.Supp. 2d 1364 (N.D. Georgia).
ALLEGATIONS OF PETITION
Earlier this week, a Caucasian colleague asked us to assist in filing a petition for mandamus to compel USCIS to adjudicate an I-130 petition filed by an alien’s U.S. citizen spouse which had been pending in the USCIS for more than a year.
The petition has been filed alleging the following:
1. Introduction, nature, and purpose of the action.
2. Jurisdiction – U.S. District Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1361 (mandamus statute), 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question), 28 U.S.C § 2201 (declaratory judgment).
3. Venue (where to file petition) – any judicial district where respondent resides, or where petitioner resides, or where a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred. 28 U.S.C § 1391(e).
4. Parties – Petitioner is the person who filed the Visa Petition that has been unadjudicated. Respondents are: the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the USCIS Director in Washington, D.C., the USCIS Director of the Service Center where petitioner filed the Visa Petition. Their office addresses should be provided.
5. Cause of action and standing (a) clear legal right of the petitioner to the relief demanded, (b) clear legal and ministerial duty of the respondent to perform the act sought to be performed, See 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq. (Administrative Procedure Act), (c) exhaustion of all other remedies available, (d) absence of any other remedy available, except mandamus, (e) irreparable injury to petitioner because of respondent’s unreasonable failure to act and perform a duty owed to petitioner.
6. Claim for attorney’s fees and costs pursuant to 28 U.S.C § 2412.
7. Prayer for relief – request court to order respondent to process petition or application, to furnish petitioner with a copy of the order granting or denying the visa petition, to order respondents to pay attorney’s fees and costs, to award such other relief as may be just and proper.
8. Verification of petition by petitioner.
Summons on respondents. In addition to serving the petition on the above-named respondents, service of the summons should also be made on the Office of the General Counsel, Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C. 20258.
Filing requirements. Petitioner or his Counsel must read the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the U.S. District Court local rules.
Filing fee. There is a filing fee. Petitioner or his Counsel should check the amount with the District Court where he intends to file the petition.
COMMENT AND SUGGESTION: In a previous case where a District Director unreasonably refused to adjudicate an application for adjustment of status, we prepared a complaint for mandamus, naming him as one of the respondents, and showed the complaint to him. He asked for a week to review the complaint. In less than a week, the adjustment of status was granted. However, do not try to bluff a District Director that you are going to file a complaint, unless you know him well and unless you have a copy of the complaint to show to him, the filing fee in your hand, and your attorney’s fees paid by the client.