RAOOF et al v. TILLERSON et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding the Defendants' 12 Motion to Dismiss. Signed by Judge Trevor N. McFadden on 4/10/2018. (lctnm2)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
MUSTAFA RAOOF, et al.
Case No. 1:17-cv-01156-TNM
SECRETARY OF STATE,1 et al.
Under the J-1 visa program, foreign doctors, accompanied by their spouse and minor
children, can “temporarily” visit the United States for “graduate medical education or training.”
8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(J). Exchange visitors in this category cannot apply for permanent
residence unless they return to their last foreign residence for two years—barring a waiver of the
requirement from the Attorney General, with the approval of the State Department and the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (collectively, the Government). 18 U.S.C. § 1182(e).
In this case, Dr. Mustafa Raoof, his wife Sidra Haye, and their American son challenge the
denial of Dr. Raoof’s waiver request, which requires them to return to Pakistan. The
Government moves to dismiss, contending in large part that the decision is entrusted solely to
agency discretion, and not reviewable by the judicial branch. For the reasons that follow, I will
grant the motion to dismiss.
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(d), the Acting Secretary of State has been substituted for Rex
W. Tillerson, his predecessor.
Dr. Raoof and his wife, Ms. Haye, are citizens of Pakistan, and current residents of
California. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. Dr. Raoof entered the country in 2009 on a form of the J-1 visa, “as
a nonimmigrant exchange visitor under 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(J) to undertake a residency
program in general surgery.” Id. at ¶ 24. His visa was sponsored by the Educational
Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Id. at ¶ 25. After Dr. Raoof wed Ms.
Haye in April 2010, she entered the country in July 2010 on a J-2 visa, id. at ¶¶ 24, 27, “as a
derivative” of Dr. Raoof’s status. Id. at ¶ 21. Their son, “M.R.,” was born in the United States
in September 2015, making him an American citizen by birth. Id. at ¶ 28. Because Dr. Raoof
came to the United States for graduate medical education, he is subject to the “two-year foreign
residency requirement” under 18 U.S.C. § 1182(e), and cannot apply for permanent resident
status, better known as a Green Card, “until he has either fulfilled the requirement by spending
two years in his home country, or until he has obtained a waiver of the requirement.” Id. at ¶ 18.
Dr. Raoof applied for a waiver of the two-year foreign residency requirement in 2016,
arguing that his U.S. citizen son would be subjected to “exceptional hardship” if forced to return
to Pakistan. Id. at ¶¶ 22, 36-41. According to the complaint, “Pakistan is one of the most
violent, dangerous, and unstable countries in the world,” with ongoing sectarian and political
violence. Id. at ¶ 14. Both Dr. Raoof and his wife are from “the large southern port city of
Karachi,” which they allege “is in a state of near-anarchy, with constant gang wars and sectarian
violence,” creating an “exceptional risk” that their son would be “singled out for mistreatment
and/or kidnapping for ransom” because of his American citizenship. Id. at ¶ 15. A forced return
to Pakistan would also allegedly cause M.R. exceptional medical, psychological, educational,
and sociocultural hardships. Id. at ¶ 16.
On December 1, 2016, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a
component of DHS, allegedly made the initial determination—via Defendant Kathy Baran,
Director of the USCIS California Service Center—“that Dr. Raoof’s qualifying relative would
suffer exceptional hardships if a waiver was not granted.” Id. at ¶ 44; see also Def.’s Mot.
Dismiss 3 (Mot. Dismiss) (declining to deny the allegation). This finding was memorialized on a
“Form I-613,” which indicated that “prior to Ms. Baran’s review . . . an Adjudications Officer
and a Supervisory Officer all made the same finding.” Id. at ¶ 44. Dr. Raoof’s waiver
application was then sent to the State Department’s Waiver Review Division (WRD). Id. at ¶
Because USCIS had already determined that non-waiver would impose an exceptional
hardship, WRD was required to “review the program, policy, and foreign relations aspects of the
case, make a recommendation, and forward it to the appropriate office at DHS (in this case, the
USCIS California Service Center).” 22 C.F.R. § 41.63. That same regulation states that “If it
deems it appropriate, the Waiver Review Division may request the views of each of the exchange
visitors’ sponsors concerning the waiver application.” Id. After receiving the application, WRD
obtained “a Letter of Need,” a document required by regulation for “admission to the United
States in J-1 status for graduate medical education,” likely written by ECFMG, Dr. Raoof’s
original sponsor. Compl. ¶ 52. The Plaintiffs allege “[o]n information and belief” that the WRD
“did not seek or review Letters of Need” in cases like Dr. Raoof’s prior to 2010. Id. at ¶ 54.
WRD then “issued a Not Favorable recommendation” using the bottom of Form I-613, and sent
The complaint alleges that “without discovery, it is impossible to know” whether a complete
copy of the initial hardship determination and a summary of the details of the expected hardship
were transmitted to WRD, as required by State Department regulations. Id. at ¶ 45-50.
the recommendation back to Director Baran at the USCIS California Service Center. Id. at ¶ 56.
Although the form “contains a box that allows the State Department to explain” the reasons for
its recommendation, WRD did not use this box. Id. at ¶¶ 55, 57.
Director Baran then denied the waiver application on the basis of the State Department’s
recommendation, explaining that:
In reaching this conclusion, the Waiver Review Division
considered a range of facts relevant to assessing program, policy,
and foreign relations interests in your case and determined that you
would provide valuable knowledge, skills and expertise as a
physician in the field of general surgical oncology. If you fail to
fulfill your two-year foreign residency requirement, Pakistan
would lose the opportunity to gain from your valuable experience
in the United States.
Id. at ¶¶ 73-74. There is no administrative appeal from this decision. Id. at ¶ 75. Because Ms.
Haye’s J-2 status is derivative of Dr. Raoof’s, agency regulations state that she is subject to the
same two-year foreign residency requirement. 22 C.F.R. § 41.62(c)(4); 8 C.F.R. § 212.7(c)(4);
Compl. ¶¶ 82, 85-85. The Plaintiffs argue that this requirement is “contrary to the plain language
of 8 U.S.C. § 1182(e),” which they claim only applies to the original J-1 visa recipient. Compl.
¶¶ 81-82, 87.
This suit contains nine counts challenging the waiver denial on statutory interpretation
grounds, and under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Constitution’s Due Process
Clause, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Mandamus Act, and the
Declaratory Judgment Act. Compl. 21-30. The Government has moved to dismiss, citing lack
of jurisdiction as to the APA abuse of discretion count, and failure to state a claim as to the
remainder. Mot. Dismiss 1-2.
II. Legal Standards
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a complaint may be dismissed for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction, if the plaintiff fails to establish it. Arpaio v. Obama, 797 F.3d 11,
19 (D.C. Cir. 2015). “While the district court may consider materials outside the pleadings in
deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction . . . the court must still
accept all of the factual allegations in [the] complaint as true.” Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v.
Food & Drug Admin., 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and
“[A] complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed
factual allegations.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). However, “a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). “A claim crosses from conceivable to plausible when it contains factual allegations that,
if proved, would ‘allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for
the misconduct alleged.’” Banneker Ventures, LLC v. Graham, 798 F.3d 1119, 1129 (D.C. Cir.
2015) (alteration omitted) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). In this inquiry, a court must “draw
all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff’s favor,” but does not “assume
the truth of legal conclusions.” Id.
The Plaintiffs’ “chief claim” is that “is that the State Department must have abused its
discretion” in denying Dr. Raoof’s waiver application. Compl. ¶ 16. Although they press this
contention in many legal forms, and assail related aspects of the waiver determination system,
each claim ultimately fails. The challenged decision, while important and complicated, is
fundamentally discretionary. The power to make it has been allotted by statute to designated
executive branch officials. On the facts presented, the judicial branch is not authorized to
intervene or second guess that decision.
A. The APA Does Not Provide Jurisdiction to Review Discretionary Waiver Denials
In Count One, the Plaintiffs claim that the denial of Dr. Raoof’s waiver application
violates the APA. Id. at ¶ 106. They assert that the Government “failed to consider all the
evidence in the record,” and that “there is no evidence that the Defendants reviewed the program,
policy, and foreign relations aspects of this case.” Id. at ¶¶ 102-3. On this basis, the Plaintiffs
argue that the denial was “contrary to  statutory standards, the regulations, the legislative
history, and the intent of Congress,” “arbitrary and capricious,” “and otherwise constitutes an
abuse of discretion.” Id. at ¶¶ 102, 106. However, the APA does not apply when “agency action
is committed to agency discretion by law.” 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2). An agency action is
“committed to agency discretion” when “statutes are drawn in such broad terms that in a given
case there is no law to apply,” Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402,
410 (1971), meaning that “a court would have no meaningful standard against which to judge the
agency’s exercise of discretion.” Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821, 830 (1985).
Applying this standard, the D.C. Circuit has already concluded that the decision to grant
or deny a Section 1182(e) waiver application is wholly committed to agency discretion, and
therefore unreviewable under the APA. In Slyper v. Attorney Gen., two foreign doctors who had
married American citizens challenged the denial of their waiver applications, arguing that the
decision was “arbitrary, unreasonable, and an abuse of discretion.” 827 F.2d 821, 822 (D.C. Cir.
1987). Slyper first reviewed the statute, which allows the Attorney General to grant a waiver
upon the favorable recommendation of the Director, pursuant to
the request . . . of the Commissioner of Immigration and
Naturalization after he has determined that departure from the
United States would impose exceptional hardship upon the alien’s
spouse or child (if such spouse or child is a citizen of the United
States or a lawfully resident alien)[.]
8 U.S.C. § 1182(e). Slyper then explained that applicable regulations “repeat practically
verbatim the waiver procedure in the statute . . . and provide the most general type of guidance
for [agency] action”—to “review the policy, program, and foreign relations aspects of the case
and  transmit a recommendation to the Attorney General for decision.” Slyper, 827 F.2d at 823
(quoting 22 C.F.R. § 514.32 (1986)); see also 22 C.F.R. § 41.63 (2007) (“the Waiver Review
Division shall review the program, policy, and foreign relations aspects of the case, make a
recommendation, and forward it to the appropriate office at DHS.”).
Slyper found that “[i]t is clear from the face of the statute that Congress intended to vest
maximum discretion in the Director to oppose waivers requested by visiting physicians. The
statute contains no standard or criterion upon which the Director is to base a decision to make or
withhold a favorable recommendation.” Slyper, 827 F.2d at 823. In contrast to another
immigration case involving a decision for which “the statute lists thirty-three distinctly
delineated categories that conspicuously provide standards to guide the Executive,” id. at 824
(citing Abourezk v. Reagan, 785 F.2d 1043, 1051 (D.C. Cir. 1986), aff’d, 484 U.S. 1 (1987)),
Slyper reasoned that “the governing statute [here] is devoid of guidance. Insofar as the Director
is subject to any direction, it is to be found in the  regulation requiring that he review waiver
applications in light of unspecified ‘policy, program, and foreign relations aspects of the case.’”
Id. (quoting 22 C.F.R. § 514.32 (1986)). Without a standard to apply, Congress could not have
intended judicial review under the APA—although Slyper quickly added that this conclusion did
not mean that these decisions are “never subject to review.” Id. at 824. The court suggested that
jurisdiction might lie if “a colorable claim were made of constitutional, statutory, or regulatory
violation, or of fraud or lack of [agency] jurisdiction.” Id. Because the plaintiffs’ only claim
was that the Government abused its discretion in violation of the APA, review was impossible.
Id. Lacking a “meaningful standard against which to judge the agency’s exercise of discretion,”
Heckler, 470 U.S. at 830, Slyper affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ APA claims for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction.
Slyper is binding authority in this District. The Plaintiffs try to avoid this conclusion by
pointing to the decision’s alleged failure to conduct “any review of the legislative history.” Opp.
2. But even if I disagreed with the D.C. Circuit’s analysis, I am not free to depart from its
judgments. For that reason, the Plaintiffs’ reliance on a contrary decision from the Third Circuit,
Chong v. Dir., U.S. Info. Agency, 821 F.2d 171, 176 (3d Cir. 1987), and their claim that other
circuit decisions suggest another result, Opp. 2-6, are unavailing. In fact, the D.C. Circuit
indicated in Slyper that it was aware of the Second and Ninth Circuits’ consonant decisions, and
the Third Circuit’s disagreement. Slyper, 827 F.2d at 824 (citing cases). To the extent that
Counts Two through Eight attempt to establish jurisdiction with “a colorable claim . . . of
constitutional, statutory, or regulatory violation, or of fraud or lack of [agency] jurisdiction,” id.,
I will address those claims on their own merits in the forthcoming analysis. See Opp. 2 (citing
Counts One through Nine). But Count One is titled “Abuse of Discretion and Violation of the
[APA],” and it challenges the substantive decision to deny Dr. Raoof’s waiver petition as an
abuse of discretion under the APA. Compl. 21-22. With Slyper as binding precedent, Count
One must be denied for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. 3
Under the header of Count I, the Plaintiffs also allege that “the Defendants routinely fail to
provide any valid explanation for their recommendations” and that “the State Department
intentionally does not provide the basis for its decisions in J-1 waiver cases so that it can evade
judicial review.” Compl. ¶¶ 103-4. But the APA only allows challenges to “a discrete agency
action,” not “broad programmatic attack[s]” like these. Norton v. S. Utah Wilderness All., 542
B. The Foreign Residence Requirement Also Applies to Derivative Visa-Holders
In Count Two, the Plaintiffs challenge the application of the two-year foreign residence
requirement to Ms. Haye, contending that the agency regulations enforcing this rule are
“inconsistent with the plain language of [the statute],” and were promulgated without following
the APA’s required rule-making procedures. Compl. 22-23; see also 22 C.F.R. § 41.62(c)(4)
(applying the requirement to J-2 derivative beneficiaries); 8 C.F.R. § 212.7(c)(4) (same). I
conclude that it is in fact the Plaintiffs’ legal interpretation that is inconsistent with the statutory
When read in isolation, the statute creating the foreign residence requirement seems to
apply only to the original J-1 visa holder:
No person admitted under section 1101(a)(15)(J) of this title . . .
who came to the United States or acquired such status in order to
receive graduate medical education or training, shall be eligible to
apply for an immigrant visa, or for permanent residence, or for a
nonimmigrant visa . . . until it is established that such person has
resided and been physically present in the country of his
nationality or his last residence for an aggregate of at least two
years following departure from the United States[.]
8 U.S.C. § 1182(e). Ms. Haye did not personally come to the United States “in order to receive
graduate medical education or training,” as all parties agree. See id.; Opp. 16-17. But Section
1182(e) is only one piece of the puzzle. In answering statutory interpretation questions, “[a]
court must . . . interpret the statute ‘as a symmetrical and coherent regulatory scheme,’ and ‘fit, if
U.S. 55, 64 (2004) (emphasis original); see also 5 U.S.C. § 706 (“Scope of review”).
The Plaintiffs also make a fleeting suggestion that the State Department should not “seek or
review Letters of Need” in cases like this. Compl. ¶ 54. But agency regulations specifically
allow the practice. 22 C.F.R. § 41.63 (“If it deems it appropriate, the Waiver Review Division
may request the views of each of the exchange visitors’ sponsors concerning the waiver
application.”). Even without that authorization, Slyper would still forbid judicial review under
the APA, since the waiver decision is wholly committed to agency discretion.
possible, all parts into a harmonious whole.’” FDA v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp.,
529 U.S. 120, 133 (2000) (citations omitted). Reading the statute in this manner leads
inexorably to the conclusion that derivative beneficiaries are subject to the same requirements as
the primary visa holder.
Ms. Haye was admitted under the same statutory provision as Dr. Raoof, as an “alien
spouse . . . accompanying [Dr. Raoof] or following to join him.” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(J).
That provision defines a “nonimmigrant alien,” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15), as:
an alien having a residence in a foreign country which he has no
intention of abandoning who is a bona fide student, scholar,
trainee, teacher, professor, research assistant, specialist, or leader
in a field of specialized knowledge or skill . . . who is coming
temporarily to the United States as a participant in a program . . .
for the purpose of teaching, instructing or lecturing, studying,
observing, conducting research, consulting, demonstrating special
skills, or receiving training and who, if he is coming to the United
States to participate in a program under which he will receive
graduate medical education or training, also meets the
requirements of section 1182(j) of this title, and the alien spouse
and minor children of any such alien if accompanying him or
following to join him[.]
8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(J) (emphasis added). The statute’s language is instructive. Dr. Raoof
has come “temporarily” to the United States, and his eligibility for the program hinges on
whether he has “no intention of abandoning” his “residence in a foreign country.” Id. Ms.
Haye’s status is derivative of Dr. Raoof’s, as his “alien spouse.” Id. Not only that, but Ms. Haye
can obtain a J-2 visa only “if accompanying him or following to join him.” Id. Because Dr.
Raoof has met these requirements, and Ms. Haye is his spouse, she qualifies as a “nonimmigrant
Armed with these insights, we have all we need to complete the puzzle. Since Ms. Haye
derives her status wholly from Dr. Raoof’s status, it would be inconsistent with the statute (and
the rules of logic) for her to somehow obtain from Dr. Raoof an immigration benefit that he
himself did not and could not possess. All of the statutory clues confirm this deduction. Read as
a whole, the exchange visitor program preserves family unity by allowing J-2 visa holders to
remain with J-1 visa holders as they “temporarily” travel to the United States, and return to
practice medicine in their country of origin with fresh abilities. When section 1182(e) tells us
that anyone “admitted under section 1101(a)(15)(J) of this title . . . who came to the United
States or acquired such status in order to receive graduate medical education or training” must
return to their last foreign residence before applying for a Green Card, the most natural reading
of the statute is that derivative visa holders—“nonimmigrant[s],” the statute reminds us—must
do the same, because their continued residence in the United States is tied to the J-1 person’s
status. The opposite conclusion would be inconsistent with the entire scheme of the J-1 visa
program, and fails to state a plausible claim. 4
The Plaintiffs also claim that the two regulations implementing this rule violate the APA,
5 U.S.C. § 553, because the agencies “did not engage in formal rule-making.” Compl. ¶¶ 108-9.
But the agencies were not required to do so. The rule making section of the APA does not apply
when the rule “involve[s] . . . a military or foreign affairs function of the United States,” 5 U.S.C.
§ 553(a), and the notice and comment requirements do not apply to “rules of agency
organization, procedure, or practice.” Id. at § 553(b)(A). When the State Department announced
that “[i]f an alien is subject to the 2–year foreign residence requirement . . . the spouse or child of
that alien, accompanying or following to join the alien, is also subject to that requirement,” 22
Even if the statutory text was silent or ambiguous on this question, which it is not, Chevron
deference would require me to uphold the agencies’ reasonable interpretation of the statutory
scheme. Chevron, U.S.A., Inc. v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842–43 (1984). Not
only is the agencies’ interpretation “permissible,” id., but any other interpretation would conflict
with the Congressional scheme for the reasons just explained.
C.F.R. § 41.62(c)(4), it explicitly invoked the exemption for foreign affairs. 37 Fed. Reg. 17471
(“The provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act . . . relative to notice of proposed rule
making are inapplicable to this order because the regulations . . . involve foreign affairs functions
of the United States.”). The Plaintiffs object that the State Department had no authority to
promulgate this regulation, since it is largely DHS that is “charged with the administration and
enforcement of [the Immigration and Nationality Act].” Opp. 23 (quoting 8 U.S.C. § 1103). But
DHS’ authority over the INA, and immigration and naturalization laws generally, extends
“except insofar as . . . such laws relate to the powers, functions, and duties conferred upon . . .
the Secretary of State, [and] the officers of the Department of State,” among others. 8 U.S.C. §
1103(a)(1). The exchange visitor program—with its statutory mandate for international
interaction through nonimmigrants—certainly relates to the foreign affairs and diplomatic duties
conferred upon the Secretary of State and the State Department. More immediately, the very
waiver at issue in this case requires the approval of the State Department, as even the Plaintiffs
admit. Opp. 22 (citing 8 U.S.C § 1182(e)). I conclude that the APA’s rule-making requirements
do not apply to 22 C.F.R. § 41.62(c)(4), and that the State Department properly exercised its
authority to promulgate the regulation and invoke the foreign affairs exception.
Similarly, USCIS did not need to follow the APA’s rule making procedures when it
adopted a conforming regulation. See 37 Fed. Register at 22725-22726 (adopting 8 C.F.R. §
212.7(c)(4) in order “to conform to the Department of State regulations published August 29,
1972 (37 [Fed. Reg.] 17470)”). Adopting the same rule simply made “agency . . . procedure or
practice” consistent across agencies, and thus did not require notice and comment. See 5 U.S.C.
§ 553(b)(A). Even if the rule had any substantive effect, those effects involved the same foreign
policy considerations as the State Department’s original rule, and the APA would be just as
inapplicable. Id. at § 553(a).
In sum, the Plaintiffs have not plausibly raised a statutory or APA challenge to applying
the foreign residence requirement to derivative J-2 visa holders like Ms. Haye. Count Two
therefore fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
C. The Plaintiffs Have Not Alleged a Protected Due Process Right
The Plaintiffs also challenge the denial of Dr. Raoof’s waiver request under the Due
Process Clause, in Counts Three, Four, and Five. The manner of the denial, they allege, violated
their rights to life, family unity, and property. Compl. 23-24. “Procedural due process imposes
constraints on governmental decisions which deprive individuals of ‘liberty’ or ‘property’
interests within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment.”
Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332 (1976). But “[t]he initial inquiry” in a Due Process
claim is determining whether a protected life, liberty or property interest has been implicated.
Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223 (1976). “[T]he range of interests protected by procedural
due process is not infinite.” Bd. of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 570 (1972).
The Plaintiffs cite to no authority identifying a protected interest in this context. They
attempt to rely on Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970), which “held that a person receiving
welfare benefits under statutory and administrative standards defining eligibility for them has an
interest in continued receipt of those benefits that is safeguarded by procedural due process.”
Roth, 408 U.S. at 576; Opp. 25-26. Based on this holding, the Plaintiffs contend that they have
“a property interest in the application fees paid to the State Department and the USCIS.” Opp.
25. But Goldberg was concerned with “the termination of benefits,” 397 U.S. at 260 (emphasis
added), while the Plaintiffs are concerned with obtaining a waiver they do not possess. As the
Supreme Court later explained, “[t]he Fourteenth Amendment’s procedural protection of
property is a safeguard of the security of interests that a person has already acquired in specific
benefits.” Roth, 408 U.S. at 576. “To have a property interest in a benefit, a person
. . . must . . . have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it.” Id. at 577. As the Government puts it,
all the rights that the Plaintiffs invoke apply only if they have a right to waiver in the first
instance. Mot. Dismiss 33.5 “[A]n expectation of receiving process is not, without more, a
liberty interest protected by the Due Process Clause.” Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 251
n.12 (1983); see also Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless v. Barry, 107 F.3d 32, 36 (D.C.
Cir. 1997) (“Where . . . the legislature leaves final determination of which eligible individuals
receive benefits to the ‘unfettered discretion’ of administrators, no constitutionally protected
property interest exists.”).6 As I explained in Section III A, the D.C. Circuit has already held that
the agencies’ waiver decision is unreviewable, because both the statute and “the regulation [are]
equally devoid of meaningful direction,” Slyper, 827 F.2d at 824, and thus “committed to agency
discretion by law.” Id. (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2)). With no rights at issue to which the
Plaintiffs can lay claim, their Due Process claims cannot survive the motion to dismiss.
D. The Remaining Counts Fail to State a Claim
The Plaintiffs’ remaining four claims can be quickly dispatched.
The Plaintiffs contend that “[Government] do[es] not make arguments for dismissal of Count
Three [right to life] and Four [right to family unity].” Opp. 27 n. 25. Not so. The Government
argues repeatedly that the Plaintiffs have not shown a “liberty or property interest” in this case,
and conclude with the claim that “Plaintiffs’ due process claims therefore fail.” Mot. Dismiss
33-34 (emphasis added).
Since the Plaintiffs relinquished all entitlement to their application fees upon payment,
retaining only an “expectation of receiving process” in return, they have retained no
constitutionally protected interest in those funds.
In Count Six, they assert that “a more relaxed standard should be taken in determining
whether a waiver should be granted in a case like Dr. Raoof’s,” relying on legislative history for
this proposition. Compl. ¶126; Opp. 24 (disputing the Government’s “mischaracterization of the
Plaintiffs’ reliance” on two Board of Immigration Appeals cases, because “Plaintiff cited these
cases to show that the State Department and the INS recognized and relied on the suggestion
made by Congress in the legislative history.”). But “[j]udicial investigation of legislative history
has a tendency to become . . . an exercise in ‘looking over a crowd and picking out your
friends.’” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 568 (2005). I am required
to apply the statute as passed by Congress and signed by the President, not some legislator’s
gloss about what the statute should accomplish. The governing “statute contains no standard or
criterion upon which the Director is to base a decision.” Slyper, 827 F.2d at 823; see also 8
U.S.C. § 1182(e). “The  regulations repeat practically verbatim the waiver procedure in the
statute, and provide the most general type of guidance,” Slyper, 827 F.2d at 823, saying only that
“the Waiver Review Division shall review the program, policy, and foreign relations aspects of
the case.” 22 C.F.R. § 41.63 (2007). The Government explicitly applied this language in
denying Dr. Raoof’s waiver request. See Compl. ¶ 74. The law requires no ‘relaxed’ standard
beyond the one applied.
The Plaintiffs’ next claim, in Count Seven, is that the Government failed to “supply a
reasoned analysis” for a “change in policy and standards.” Id. at ¶¶ 130, 132. They point to their
law firm’s record in J-1 exceptional hardship cases, and the increase in “Not Favorable”
recommendations they received in the first quarter of 2017. Id at ¶ 131. The Plaintiffs cite
Greater Boston Television Corp. v. F.C.C., which relied on “the Rule of Law, as established by
Administrative Law doctrine” for the proposition that “an agency changing its course must
supply a reasoned analysis indicating that prior policies and standards are being deliberately
changed.” 444 F.2d 841, 852 (D.C. Cir. 1970). But the Plaintiffs offer no evidence for this
alleged “change in policy” beyond mere “Not Favorable” recommendations, Compl. ¶ 131, and
nowhere indicate what the new policy might be. That is not enough factual content from which a
factfinder could “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.7 Even if the Complaint did offer enough allegations from
which I could infer a new, unexplained policy, it would not matter. The State Department’s
waiver decision is fundamentally discretionary, and it is explicitly authorized to consider the
“program, policy, and foreign relations aspects of the case.” 22 C.F.R. § 41.63. The
Government applied that standard in Dr. Raoof’s case, Compl. ¶ 74, and the Plaintiffs lack
standing to challenge injuries to anyone else.
Invoking the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Plaintiffs
assert in Count Eight that “denying Dr. Raoof’s  waiver application without any rational basis
violates . . . various articles of the [ICCPR],” including “Articles 1,12, 17, 18, 23, and 24, in
addition to possible violations of other articles.” Compl. ¶ 137. But “[c]ourts have uniformly
held that the ICCPR is not self-executing and that, therefore, it does not give rise to a private
right of action.” Macharia v. United States, 238 F. Supp. 2d 13, 29 (D.D.C. 2002), aff’d, 334
F.3d 61 (D.C. Cir. 2003). Without a private right of action, the Plaintiffs’ “claim based on the
ICCPR must be dismissed for failure to state a claim and for lack of jurisdiction.” Id. The
The Plaintiffs protest that their attorneys’ experience in submitting “647 waiver applications”
undergirded the complaint’s assertions, and that “[i]t would be impossible to prove this [change
in policy] averment without discovery.” Opp. 15-16. But the Supreme Court has made clear that
the plaintiff carries the initial burden of pleading enough facts to state a plausible claim. Iqbal,
556 U.S. at 678. With no evidence pointing to a specific preexisting or new “policy” beyond the
State Department’s authority to consider the “program, policy, and foreign relations aspects of
the case,” 22 C.F.R. § 41.63, the Plaintiffs have failed to make a plausible claim.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?