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Shweika v. Department of Homeland Security

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

March 24, 2017

MAZEN SHWEIKA, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY and UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICE, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S APPLICATION FOR NATURALIZATION AND DIRECTING BRIEFING ON COSTS AND FEES

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge

         This case has a long history. Mazen Mohammad Shweika originally filed a petition for naturalization with the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) on April 28, 2004.[1] Because USCIS did not address Skweika's petition within three years, he filed a mandamus action in this Court. In 2008, the Court remanded to USCIS for a decision. Shweika v. Cannon, No. 1:07-cv-10870 (E.D. Mich. 2008). On May 29, 2008, USCIS denied Shweika's naturalization petition, concluding that he lacked the requisite “good moral character.” Shweika then sought administrative review of that decision. Ten months passed without USCIS taking action on that request. Finally, Shweika filed this suit seeking a writ of mandamus directing UNCIS to conduct the review hearing or, alternatively, a de novo review of Shweika's application pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c).

         In response to Shweika's filing of the suit, USCIS scheduled the review hearing. At the hearing, the immigration officer began examining Shweika on topics which had not been broached at the original hearing that Shweika was seeking review of. Specifically, the officer began questioning Shweika about allegations of a domestic conflict made by Shweika's ex-wife. Shweika's counsel ended the hearing rather than allow the line of questioning to continue. See Order Vacating Agency Decision and Directing Supp. Br. at 5-7, ECF No. 70 (describing and providing a partial transcript of the hearing). USCIS subsequently denied Shweika's petition for naturalization, telling Shweika that

Your refusal to answer the reviewing officer's questions left additional areas of your conduct and your character unexplored. Additionally, “immigration officials may draw a negative inference from a naturalization applicant's silence.” You have therefore failed to establish that you satisfy all of the requirements for naturalization, particularly regarding the need to demonstrate good moral character and lawful admission as a permanent resident.

Agency Decision at 5, ECF No. 20, Ex. 1.

         Shweika then sought de novo review in this Court of the decision denying his petition.

         A bench trial was held over three days in 2011. After the trial, the Court concluded on the record that Shweika had met his burden of proof of demonstrating “good moral character.” In a subsequent order, the Court reiterated that conclusion, but directed supplemental briefing on the following question:

Whether, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c) and all applicable statutes and regulations, the Court lacks jurisdiction to grant Plaintiff's application for naturalization because Plaintiff terminated the Defendant's interview regarding the denial of Plaintiff's naturalization application before the immigration officer had completed his examination of Plaintiff.

         February 15, 2012, Order at 2, ECF No. 48.

         After reviewing the supplemental briefing, the Court entered an opinion concluding that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over Shweika's appeal. ECF No. 53. The Court rested its conclusion on the fact that Shweika had not completed his 8 U.S.C. § 1447 review hearing and thus had not exhausted his administrative remedies, as required by the statute providing jurisdiction. Shweika appealed from the dismissal of his case. ECF no. 56.

         On July 25, 2013, the Sixth Circuit held that the administrative hearing requirement of 8 U.S.C. § 1447 did not impose a jurisdictional limitation on judicial review. ECF No. 58. Accordingly, the Sixth Circuit reversed the Court's conclusion that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Shweika's petition. However, the court stated:

Notwithstanding our conclusion that 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c)'s administrative-hearing requirement is nonjurisdictional, it does not follow that Shweika was thereby free to disregard the requirement, if in fact he did so. Upon remand, we leave to the district court to reconsider whether § 1421(c)'s administrative-hearing requirement implies a completion requirement; whether Shweika satisfied § 1421(c)'s administrative-hearing requirement; and, if he did not, what nonjurisdictional consequences attach to the failure to satisfy § 1421(c)'s administrative-hearing requirement.

Id. at 13.

         On October 29, 2015, this Court issued an opinion and order vacating USCIS's denial of Shweika's application. ECF No. 70. The Court reasoned that, because USCIS “has conclusively represented that Shweika's application was denied and his interview complete, ” the question of whether § 1421(c)'s imposed a completion requirement was moot. Id. at 12. Further, the order concluded that, even if Shweika had not exhausted his administrative remedies, remand to USCIS for a continued hearing was not justified for several reasons. First, Shweika's suits in this Court were both initiated after long and unexplained delays by USCIS. Likewise, because the § 1421(c) review hearing was partially completed, only a small amount of evidence was outstanding. Thus, remand was unnecessary.

         The October 2015 order then addressed the remaining issues in the case:

What remains is consideration of where Shweika's application and case currently stands. While Shweika was determined to have satisfied the good moral character requirement based on the evidence presented at the evidentiary hearing, the Court did not enter judgment granting Shweika's application for naturalization. It will not do so now. The Service represented in its supplemental briefing that Shweika admitted to submitting false or misleading information in connection with an application for benefits under the laws governing immigration and nationalization. The Service believes that the false or misleading information must have been given in connection with the current application, since the admission was made in a follow-up application Shweika initiated. The naturalization statute provides:
For the purposes of this chapter--No person shall be regarded as, or found to be, a person of good moral character who, during the period for which good moral character is required to be established, is, or was . . . (6) one who has given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining any benefits under this chapter[.]
8 U.S.C. § 1101(f). If Shweika provided false or misleading information in connection with his current naturalization application, it cannot be granted.

         ECF No. 70. at 25.

         The Court ordered supplemental briefing on that single issue. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' request that the case be remanded for an evidentiary hearing will be denied and Shweika's petition for naturalization will be granted.

         I.

         As stated, above this Court has already concluded, after a three day bench trial, that Shweika had demonstrated his “good moral character” by clear and convincing evidence. The limited scope of the issue now presented must thus be emphasized. Defendants argue that, in a separate naturalization application which Shweika filed on October 22, 2012, [2] he admitted to giving false or misleading information while applying for an ...


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