ZHANG v. USCIS
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on 07/26/2017. (lcegs3)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
) Civil Action No. 17-706 (EGS)
UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND
On August 18, 2015, Yue Zhang filed a naturalization
application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration
Services (“USCIS”). Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1; Decl. of Kimberly J.
Zanotti (“Zanotti Decl.”), ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 2. As part of the
application process, USCIS interviewed her on December 21, 2015.
Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1; Zanotti Decl., ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 3. In March
2016, USCIS issued Ms. Zhang a Notice of Intent to Deny (“NOID”)
her application and gave her 30 days to file a rebuttal to that
NOID. Zanotti Decl., ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 4. Ms. Zhang submitted her
rebuttal in April 2016. Zanotti Decl., ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 5; see
Pl.’s Opp. to Def.’s Mot. to Remand to USCIS (“Pl.’s Opp.”), ECF
No. 6 at 1.
Ms. Zhang then heard nothing further from USCIS concerning
her application, so on April 18, 2017, proceeding pro se, she
initiated this lawsuit pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b). See
Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1-2. Ms. Zhang requests that the Court
“grant [her] . . . citizenship” as soon as possible. Id. at 2.
Ms. Zhang has also moved the Court to expedite her case. Pl.’s
Mot. to Expedite, ECF No. 3. USCIS opposes that motion and has
moved the Court to remand this matter to USCIS so that USCIS can
expeditiously render a final decision concerning Ms. Zhang’s
application. See Def.’s Mot. for Remand and Opp. to Pl.’s Mot.
to Expedite (“Def.’s Mot.”), ECF No. 4 at 1. USCIS has
represented to the Court that it will issue such a decision
within 21 days of the Court remanding this matter. Zanotti
Decl., ECF No. 4-1 ¶ 8. Ms. Zhang opposes remand because USCIS
has not promised that its final decision will result in her
attaining citizenship. Pl.’s Opp., ECF No. 6 at 1. For the
reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Ms. Zhang’s motion to
expedite and GRANTS USCIS’s motion to remand.
If USCIS fails to render a decision concerning a
naturalization application before the end of the 120-day period
after the date on which the “examination” of the applicant
called for by 8 U.S.C. § 1446 is conducted, an applicant may
apply to the appropriate district court “for a hearing on the
matter.” 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b). USCIS concedes that the relevant
“examination” took place when USCIS interviewed Ms. Zhang on
December 21, 2015. See Def.’s Mot., ECF No. 4 at 2. Thus there
is no dispute that more than 120 days have elapsed since the
“examination” and, accordingly, that § 1447(b) vests this Court
with “jurisdiction over the matter.” See 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b).
Even so, § 1447(b) provides that when a district court has
jurisdiction it “may either determine the matter or remand the
matter, with appropriate instructions, to [USCIS] to determine
the matter.” Id. “Thus, it is entirely within the discretion of
the court to either deny the motion to remand . . . or grant the
motion to remand and allow the naturalization petition to be
adjudicated by the USCIS.” Abusamhadneh v. Napolitano, No. 10111, 2010 WL 1734772, at *1 (E.D. Va. Apr. 26, 2010). “The vast
majority of district courts remand lawsuits filed under §
1447(b) for USCIS to decide in the first instance whether to
grant or deny an application for naturalization.” Gill v.
Crawford, No. 15-1633, 2016 WL 880952, at *1 (E.D. Cal. Mar. 8,
2016). This Court joins that majority here.
Remand makes sense in this instance first and foremost for
reasons of agency expertise. “Generally speaking, a court . . .
should remand a case to an agency for decision of a matter that
statutes place primarily in agency hands.” INS v. Ventura, 537
U.S. 12, 16 (2002) (per curiam). “This principle has obvious
importance in the immigration context.” Id. at 16-17. And this
principle is readily applicable here: USCIS is better equipped
than this Court to make a decision concerning a naturalization
application, at least in the first instance. See Rashid v. Dep’t
of Homeland Sec., No. 14-2109, 2017 WL 1398847, at *2 (E.D. Cal.
Apr. 19, 2017) (“USCIS is better equipped to handle these cases
and has more expertise than district courts in adjudicating
applications.”); Manzoor v. Chertoff, 472 F. Supp. 2d 801, 808
(E.D. Va. 2007) (explaining that “the review of the results of
the mandatory background checks and any follow-up questioning of
an applicant are best left to [US]CIS”).
Additionally, given that USCIS has informed the Court that
it will render a final decision concerning Ms. Zhang’s
application within 21 days of remand, see Zanotti Decl., ECF No.
4-1 ¶ 8, the most efficient disposition of the application is to
remand to USCIS. The prompt decision that USCIS has promised to
render strongly weighs in favor of remand. See Rashid, 2017 WL
1398847, at *2 (“In the few cases where a district court opted
to adjudicate the matter itself, . . . the defendants failed to
assure the court that a swift decision could be made on
That USCIS’s ultimate decision might be to deny Ms. Zhang’s
application does not weigh against remand. See Pl.’s Opp., ECF
No. 6 at 1. If USCIS’s decision turns out to be unfavorable to
Ms. Zhang, she “may request a hearing before an immigration
officer,” see 8 U.S.C. § 1447(a), and then, in the event that
the decision remains unfavorable, she may seek de novo review in
the appropriate district court. See 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c).
Accordingly, for the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES
Ms. Zhang’s motion to expedite and GRANTS USCIS’s motion to
remand. An appropriate Order accompanies this Memorandum
Emmet G. Sullivan
United States District Judge
July 26, 2017
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