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Chavez v. United States

United States District Court, D. Colorado

February 28, 2018

MARIA FLORES CHAVEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES, and KRISTI BARROWS, District Director of USCIS, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction (Doc. # 11), which the Plaintiff Maria Flores Chavez opposes (Doc. # 13). The sole issue presented for review is whether this Court has jurisdiction under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to hear Ms. Flores Chavez's challenge to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services' (USCIS) denial of her application for adjustment of status, given that removal proceedings are simultaneously pending against her. For the following reasons, the Court concludes that it does not have jurisdiction over this action and must accordingly dismiss this case.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Ms. Flores Chavez is a native and citizen of Mexico who lives in Denver, Colorado. (Doc. # 2 at ¶ 7.) Ms. Flores Chavez last departed from the United States sometime in August 1998; she then re-entered in August 2000 after being inspected and admitted using her border crossing card. (Id. at ¶ 2.)

         On February 29, 2016, Ms. Flores Chavez filed an I-485 application for adjustment of status. (Id. at ¶ 3.) USCIS denied her application on July 24, 2017, finding that Ms. Flores Chavez was inadmissible to the United States under INA 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II), 8 USC 1182(a)(9)(B)(i)(II), which states that any alien who “has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more, and who again seeks admission within 10 years of that date of such alien's departure or removal from the United States is inadmissible.” (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 4.)

         On November 17, 2017, Ms. Flores Chavez commenced this action seeking judicial review of USCIS's denial of her application for a status adjustment under the APA. (Doc. # 2.) At the time, Ms. Flores Chavez had no other remedies to pursue. On January 9, 2018, Defendants issued a Notice to Appear (NTA), charging Ms. Flores Chavez as removable under the INA. (Doc. # 11 at 7-9.) A removal proceeding hearing is scheduled for May 2018. (Doc. # 11 at 2, n. 1.)

         Defendants' instant Motion to Dismiss, filed on January 25, 2018, argues that the recently-filed NTA and pending removal proceedings strip this Court of jurisdiction because the challenged USCIS denial is not final as required under the APA, given that Ms. Flores Chavez “can continue to pursue her application for adjustment of status through administrative channels.” (Id. at 1-2.)

         II. LAW

         A. FINALITY UNDER THE APA

         Under the APA, agency action is subject to judicial review only when it is either: (1) made reviewable by statute; or (2) a “final” action “for which there is no other adequate remedy in a court.” 5 U.S.C. § 704. No statute authorizes judicial review over denials of status adjustment, so the Court must determine whether USCIS's denial of the Ms. Gomez's application was a “final” agency action for which there is no other adequate remedy.

         Generally, two conditions must be satisfied for agency action to be “final” under the APA. “First, the action must mark the consummation of the agency's decision-making process-it must not be of a merely tentative or interlocutory nature. And second, the action must be one by which rights or obligations have been determined, or from which legal consequences will flow.” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes Co., 136 S.Ct. 1807, 1813 (2016) (citing Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154 (1997)); see also Franklin v. Massachusetts, 505 U.S. 788, 797 (1992) (“The core question is whether the agency has completed its decision-making process, and whether the result of that process is one that will directly affect the parties.”). An agency action is not final if it “does not of itself adversely affect complainant but only affects his rights adversely on the contingency of future administrative action.” Rochester Tel. Corp. v. United States, 307 U.S. 125, 130 (1939); Jama v. Dep't of Homeland Sec., 760 F.3d 490, 496 (6th Cir. 2014).

         Likewise, the APA establishes that agency action is “final” and therefore “subject to judicial review” only after “an aggrieved party has exhausted all administrative remedies expressly prescribed by statute or agency rule.” Darby v. Cisneros, 509 U.S. 137 (1993) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 704).

         B. FINALITY OF A CHALLENGE TO DENIAL OF STATUS ADJUSTMENT

         Broadly speaking, “adjustment of status” is an application filed by an alien who is physically in the United States to adjust her non-immigrant status to ...


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