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Daraghma v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

January 10, 2017

MICHELLE DARAGHMA. et al.. Plaintiffs.


          Donald C. Nugent United States District Judge

         *** The Court hereby issues an amended Memorandum Opinion pursuant lo Rule 59(e) and 60(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ***

         This matter is before the Court upon a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiffs, Michelle and Rami Daraghma ("Plaintiffs"). (ECF #30). Defendants. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, ("USCIS"); Leon Rodriquez. Director, USCIS; Mark Hansen, District Director. USCIS; Jeh Johnson. Secretary of Homeland Security; Loretta Lynch. Attorney General of the United Stales; and Steven Dettlebach. United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. ("Defendants"), filed a joint Memorandum in Opposition (ECF #32). and Plaintiffs filed a Reply Brief (ECF #33). The issues have been fully briefed and are ripe for review.

         For the reasons set forth below. Plaintiffs" Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, and judgment is entered in favor of Defendants as a matter of law.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background[1]

         Plaintiff. Mr. Daraghma. was born in Palestine and entered the United States on a nonimmigrant visa in 2005. When applying for this visa in 2004. Mr. Daraghma stated that he was married to Nasreen Mohamad Khaled Daraghma ("'Nasreen"). In 2007r Mr. Daraghma married Plaintiff. Michelle Daraghma. a United States citizen. Marriage documents issued by the State of Ohio and submitted by Plaintiffs to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") stated that each Plaintiff had been married once before. (ECF #13. PagelD #458)

         On May 7. 2008. Michelle Daraghma filed a Form 1-130. Petition for Alien Relative ("I-130"). in order to gain "immediate relative status" for Mr. Daraghma. which would then allow him to pursue an immigrant visa. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1151(b) and 1154(a)(1)(A)(I). The 1-130 form stated that Mr. Daraghma had been previously married to Nasreen. but that they were divorced in 2005. (Id. at #613). Plaintiffs also submitted a divorce decree, purportedly issued by the Shariaa Court in Palestine, as evidence of Mr. Daraghma's 2005 divorce from Nasreen. (Id. at #608-610) Also on May 7. 2008. Mr. Daraghma filed a Form 1-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, which also indicated that he had previously married and divorced Nasreen.[2]

         The USCIS reviewed the documentation provided with Plaintiffs" 1-130 and conducted an interview of both Plaintiffs in December 2008. While under oath. Mr. Daraghma again stated that he had been married to Nasreen and that he divorced her in 2005. The USCIS also reviewed evidence submitted to show that Rami and Michelle Daraghma entered into a bona fide marriage for immigration purposes, including a lease and interviews with the Plaintiffs and other witnesses. The USCIS originally found that Michelle Daraghma had not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that she and Mr. Daraghma shared a residence or otherwise co-mingled their lives or their finances in a significant, meaningful way. It also found that the evidence of Mr. Daraghma*s alleged prior divorce was not sufficient to establish that he was legally free to enter into the marriage with Michelle. (ECF #13 PagelD 326). During the course of the administrative proceedings, the USCIS sent Plaintiffs at least two separate Notices of Intent to Deny, ("'NOIDs"). each time providing Plaintiffs 30 days to submit additional documentation to address inconsistencies between the Plaintiffs" statements and the evidence provided. Plaintiffs responded at first by again providing the 2005 divorce decree with a new. certified English translation, and other new documentation purporting to show that Mr. Daraghma was divorced from Nasreen. They also emphasized their shared children as evidence of a meaningful marriage.

         The USCIS reviewed and investigated the evidence provided by the Plaintiffs. Their investigation revealed that the divorce documents submitted were fraudulent. (Id. at #236-238). Upon hearing of the USCIS's discovery. Mr. Daraghma filed an 1-601 Application for Waiver on the Ground of Inadmissibility (“1-601"). asking the USCIS to waive fraudulent statements or documents so as not to adversely affect the immigration process. Along with this 1-160 form, filed June 4. 2010. Plaintiffs each filed Affidavits indicating for the first time that Mr. Daraghma was never married to Nasreen. and admitting that they provided false evidence and testimony to the USCIS. (Id. at #208). Mr. Daraghma also provided a "Deed of Celibacy" executed by Mr. Daraghma's father, dated March 21. 2006. purporting to show that Mr. Daraghma was single at that time, and "'intended to marry a Muslim girl." (Id. at #82).

         On February 14. 2013. the USCIS denied Michelle Daraghma's 1-130. (Id. at #186). The USCIS report indicated several remaining discrepancies with the evidence presented, and found that the Plaintiffs "did not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that [Plaintiffs] truly share a residence, commingle your assets and otherwise lead shared lives together in a significant. meaningful way." (Id. at #188). This report also indicated that Plaintiffs "failed to prove to USCIS that [Mr. Daraghma] was indeed single and free to marry when the marriage [Michelle Daraghma] took place." They cited, among other things, a lack of authenticated photographs during the relevant time: lack of witnesses to the wedding: lack of shared auto insurance during the relevant time period: lack of detail in supporting witnesses' affidavits: discrepancies between the Plaintiffs" testimony and the terms of their lease and landlord's testimony, resulting in a lack of credible evidence of co-habitation: the submission of false documents to prove Mr. Daraghma's alleged divorce from Nasreen: the admission that both applicants lied in previous interviews and submitted false documentation in support of their application, and the fact that the Deed of Celibacy was not persuasive because it was based merely on a sworn statement by Mr. Daraghma's father and contradicted the original statements of both Rami and Michelle Daraghma. (Id. at 188-189). Shortly thereafter, the USCIS denied Mr. Daraghma's 1-485 application because it could not adjust his status once the 1-130 was denied. The USCIS also denied Mr. Daraghma's 1-601. (ECF #19. PagelD #699-701).

         Plaintiffs appealed the denial of the 1-130 to the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA").[3]The B1A reviewed the evidence at issue de novo, [4]and on August 24. 2015, adopted and affirmed the decision denying the 1-130. (ECF #13, PagelD #81-83). The BIA indicated that Michelle Daraghma "has not met her burden to demonstrate that [Mr. Daraghma] was free to marrv her on April 19. 2007. and that the marriage was bona fide." (Id. at 83). More specifically, the BIA found that Michelle Daraghma provided "contradictory, inconsistent or misrepresented information" and that she did not "adequately explain the inconsistencies between the prior statements given by herself and [Mr. Daraghma] and their most recent affidavits concerning [Mr. Daraghma's] prior marriage, and she did not sufficiently establish that [Mr. Daraghma] was free to marry her." (Id. at 81-82).

         On February 5. 2016. Plaintiffs filed their Amended Complaint for Mandamus and Declarator}' Relief, asking this Court to approve Michelle Daraghma's 1-130 Petition, approve Mr. Daraghma's 1-601 waiver and to direct the USC1S to adjudicate Mr. Daraghma's 1-485 Application. (See ECF #15). Plaintiffs filed this action under the Administrative Procedures Act. 5 U.S.C. § 702. et seq. ("APA"), the Mandamus Act. 28 U.S.C. §1361 and federal question jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C § 1331.

         During the Status Conference of September 19. 2016. the parties agreed that this Court does not possess jurisdiction to review the 3-601 denial, as 8 U.S.C. § 11 82(i)(2) provides that "no court shall have jurisdiction to review a decision or action ... regarding a waiver [under this section]." See also Jama v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Sendees, 962 F.Supp.2d 939 (N.D.Ohio 2013). Further, during this Status Conference. Plaintiffs' counsel agreed that a Mandamus action was not appropriate in this case and that the Court's jurisdiction over this matter was limited to appellate review under the APA. See ECF #36. Therefore, the sole issue before this Court is whether the denial of the 1-130 was unlawful under the APA.

         II. ...

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