TUTORA v. U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MEMORANDUM/OPINION THAT THE COURT WILL DISMISS THE EXPATRIATION PETITION WITH PREJUDICE. SIGNED BY HONORABLE EDWARD G. SMITH ON 5/16/17. 5/16/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE' AND E-MAILED.(ky, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
TOLEKSIS BIIN TUTORA,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-mc-195
U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF
May 16, 2017
An inmate in the Philadelphia Prison System has filed an "expatriation petition" in which
he seeks to renounce his United States citizenship. The respondent has moved to have the court
dismiss the petition because the petitioner failed to comply with the applicable statute and
administrative procedures insofar as he failed to file a renunciation request with the appropriate
federal agency. The petitioner responded to the motion by filing two motions in which he seeks
to have the court enter a default judgment against the respondent.
As discussed in more detail below, the court will grant the motion to dismiss because the
petitioner has improperly attempted to avoid the proper procedure for renouncing citizenship by
filing this action in federal court. Instead of filing this action, the petitioner could only submit
his renunciation request to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which was
the appropriate federal agency to consider the petition in the first instance. In addition, because
the petitioner has yet to seek relief with the appropriate federal agency, he cannot maintain a
claim under the Administrative Procedure Act or seek mandamus relief.
Concerning the petitioner's motions for default judgment, the petitioner has asserted no
cognizable basis that would justify granting those motions in his favor. Therefore, the court will
also deny both motions.
The prose petitioner, Toleksis Biin Tutora ("Tutora"), commenced this action by filing a
purported application to proceed
in forma pauperis
and an "Expatriation Petition" that the Clerk
of Court docketed on October 5, 2016. Doc. No. 1. The petition names the United States
Attorney General for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania as the respondent. Id
In the petition, Tutora alleges that he is currently detained in the Philadelphia Prison
System and is "also a probationer of the Lehigh Adult Parole/Probation Department."
Expatriation Pet. at ECF p. 1. Tutora asserts that "[t]he lost [sic] of employment, constant
homelessness, variant degrees of cloaking to fit in amongst other coloreds have become
confusing and detrimental to his success as a collegiate aspirant." Id. at ECF p. 2. Due to these
complaints, Tutora seeks to renounce his United States' citizenship under 8 U.S.C. § 1481 and
become a citizen of Romania. Id Tutora wants to become a citizen of Romania because it has
the "deep roots and culture suitable for his spiritual referum [sic] and religious needs." Id.
In the petition, Tutora states that he is incarcerated at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF"). See
Expatriation Pet. at ECF p. 2.
Tutora also appears to assert that other federal statutes, namely 8 U.S.C. § 1448 and 18 U.S.C. §§ 4103, 4104,
4017, and 4108, apply to the petition and provide bases for his requested relief. See Expatriation Pet. at ECF p. 3.
The court has not considered these statutes in resolving the motion to dismiss because they do not apply to the
expatriation petition. In particular, 8 U.S.C. § 1448 pertains to the oath ofrenunciation and allegiance for
individuals seeking naturalization in the United States and does not apply here because Tutora is not seeking
naturalization in the United States. See, e.g., 8 U.S.C. § 1448(a) (discussing public ceremony for "[a] person who
has applied for naturalization" and discussing required oath). 18 U.S.C. § 4103 provides that "[a]ll laws ofthe
United States, as appropriate, pertaining to prisoners, probationers, parolees, and juvenile offenders shall be
applicable to offenders transferred to the United States, unless a treaty or this chapter provides otherwise." Id This
statute does not apply because Tutora does not allege that he is an offender that was transferred to the United States.
18 U.S.C. §§ 4104, 4017, and 4018 generally addresses transfers ofoffenders to and from the United States. See 18
U.S.C. § 4104 ("Transfer ofoffenders on probation"); 18 U.S.C. § 4107 ("Verification ofconsent ofoffender to
transfer from the United States"); 18 U.S.C. § 4108 ("Verification of consent ofoffender to transfer to the United
States"). Section 4108 would not apply in any event because Tutora is already in the United States, and sections
In further support of his petition, Tutora avers as follows:
[T]hough [I am] aware that the U.S.S.R. is the political venue that abounds in the
region [around Romania], [I] by no means seek adversity, but genuine
intellectual growth and comparison that under the F.I.A. compact, sees his
entrepenuarial [sic] growth nothing short of excellence.
He is well aware that
linguistic and intellectual exchanges may at points be at point a slow turn, but is
not deterred from his goal of optimum successes. So his renunciation, pursuant to
Title section 1481 et. seq., is an honorable gesture to qualm his national homeland
and not flag any intelligence community that may premonition subversity [sic].
The growth of the world and its bounderies [sic] that are flawed are potent due to
the lack of education, not subversion.
Id. at ECF pp. 2-3.
Because Tutora did not pay the filing fee for miscellaneous actions or file a completed
motion for leave to proceed informa pauperis, the court entered an order on November 2, 2016,
which required him to either pay the filing fee or file a proper application to proceed in forma
Order, Doc. No. 2. In response to the court's order, Tutora filed a "Declaration and
Explanation in Support of Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis" that the clerk of court docketed
on November 21, 2016. Doc. No. 3.
As this submission was also insufficient for the court to
evaluate whether to grant Tutora leave to proceed in forma pauperis, the court entered another
order on November 28, 2016, requiring him to either pay the filing fee or submit a completed in
forma pauperis application with the requisite certified prisoner account statement.
Instead of reapplying for leave to proceed informa pauperis, Tutora paid the filing fee on
January 3, 2017. See Unnumbered Docket Entry Between Doc. Nos. 4 and 5. Shortly thereafter,
4104 and 4017 do not apply because there is no indication that the government is attempting to transfer Tutora to
another country. These provisions also do not allow Tutora to request to have the government transfer him to
another country to serve his sentence. Instead, these statutes merely discuss parts of the procedure for such
transfers. Furthermore, even ifTutora stated a cognizable claim here, and even if the court (or the applicable
agency) could and would grant Tutora's request and allow him to renounce his United States' citizenship, there is no
indication that he would be transferred to another country (much less the country of his choosing) to serve his
sentence instead of having to serve the remainder of his sentence in the United States before potentially being
the court entered an order requiring the Clerk of Court to serve a copy of the order and the
expatriation petition on the respondent by certified mail. Order, Doc. No. 5.
The respondent moved for an extension of time to file a response to the petition, which
the court granted on January 26, 2017. Doc. Nos. 6, 7.
The respondent then filed the instant
motion to dismiss the petition under Rules 12(b)(l) and (b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure on February 22, 2017. Doc. No. 10. Although Tutora did not file a timely response to
the motion to dismiss, he did file two documents that the clerk of court docketed on March 22,
2017: a "Motion for Default Judgment" and a "Motion Sustaining Default Motion." Doc. Nos.
The motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.
Standards of Review
12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to move for
dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6).
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests "the sufficiency of the
allegations contained in the complaint." Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993)
(citation omitted). As the moving party, "[t]he defendant bears the burden of showing that no
claim has been presented." Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citation
In general, a complaint is legally sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). "The touchstone
of [this] pleading standard is plausibility." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012).
Although Rule 8(a)(2) does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics," it does require
the recitation of "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff
pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation
Thus, to survive dismissal, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."' Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570). This "plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more
than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 570). Thus, "[a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.'"
Id (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
The Third Circuit employs a three-step approach to evaluate whether a complaint satisfies
the Twombly/Iqbal standard:
First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to
Second, the court should identify
state a claim." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947.
allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to
the assumption of truth."
Id. at 1950.
Finally, "where there are well-pleaded
factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine
whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief." Id.
Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal footnote omitted).
The court is mindful that no matter how "inartfully pleaded, [pro se complaints] must be held to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation
Despite this more liberal pleading standard, a pro se complaint must still contain '"sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Maxberry v. Sallie Mae Educ.
Loans, 532 F. App'x 73, 75 (3d
Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).
12(b)(l) Motion to Dismiss
"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co.,
511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)).
"They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and
statute, which is not to be expanded by judicial decree."
Id. (citations omitted).
courts are without power to adjudicate the substantive claims in a lawsuit, absent a firm bedrock
of jurisdiction." Carlsberg Res. Corp. v. Cambria Sav. & Loan Ass 'n, 554 F.2d 1254, 1256 (3d
Cir. 1977). Therefore, "[w]hen the foundation of federal authority is, in a particular instance,
open to question, it is incumbent upon the courts to resolve such doubts, one way or the other,
before proceeding to a disposition of the merits." Id.
"[A] court must grant a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(l)] if it lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction to hear a claim."
In re Schering Plough Corp. Intron/Temodar Consumer Class
Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012). "In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(l) motion, a court must
first determine whether the movant presents a facial or factual attack." Id. (citation omitted). A
jurisdictional challenge is factual if "it concerns not an alleged pleading deficiency, but rather the
actual failure of [the plaintiffs] claims to comport with the jurisdictional prerequisites[.]" US.
ex rel. Atkinson v. Pennsylvania Shipbuilding Co., 473 F.3d 506, 514 (3d Cir. 2007) (quotation
marks and citation omitted). A jurisdictional challenge is facial if it "challenges subject matter
jurisdiction without disputing the facts alleged in the complaint, and it requires the court to
consider the allegations of the complaint as true." Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 346 (3d
Cir. 2016) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
On the other hand, "a factual
challenge attacks the factual allegations underlying the complaint's assertion of jurisdiction,
either through the filing of an answer or 'otherwise present[ing] competing facts."' Id (quoting
Constitution Party of Pa. v. Achiele, 757 F.3d 347, 358 (3d Cir. 2014)). When a jurisdictional
challenge is factual, a court may "weigh and consider evidence outside the pleadings." Id.
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
In the motion to dismiss, the respondent claims that the court should dismiss the petition
because (1) Tutora has failed to seek to renounce his citizenship by submitting a request before
the competent administrative agency, namely the United States Citizenship and Immigration
Services ("USCIS"), (2) Tutora has not alleged that he submitted a petition to renounce to any
agency, including USCIS, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Department of State, (3)
the court cannot grant Tutora's request and is otherwise without jurisdiction to remove Tutora to
the foreign country of his choice, ( 4) Tutora has no cause of action under the Administrative
Procedures Act because he has not sought any administrative action insofar as he has yet to seek
renunciation of United States' citizenship from USCIS and, thus, there has been no agency action
unlawfully withheld and no final agency action for the court to review, and (5) Tutora has failed
to exhaust his administrative remedies because he has failed to submit a request with USCIS.
See Defendant's Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss the Compl. Under Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(l) and 12(b)(6) ("Def.'s Mem.") at 4-8, Doc. No. 10. It appears that in response to the
motion to dismiss, Tutora filed the above-referenced motions seemingly pertaining to a default
With respect to these motions, it appears that in his "Motion for Default Judgment,"
Tutora claims, without explanation, that the respondent's filing of the motion to dismiss violated
his constitutional rights. See Motion for Default J. at 1 (stating that "[c]ontrary to Fact of Law,
the Plaintiffs 5th and 14th amendment and constitution [sic] rights were intentionally violate
4 In the motions, Tutora changes the respondent in the caption to United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. See
Doc. Nos. 11, 12.
[sic]" by counsel for respondent filing a motion to dismiss),
Doc.No.11. He seems to argue that
upon receipt of his petition, the respondent would "give FACT OF LAW and proceed to
forward that document to the Secretary of the Department of State Tillerson,to wit forwarded to
Immigration and Naturalization for HOST chosen by Plaintiff and back to the U.S. Attorney
General office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania." Id (emphasis in original). Since the
respondent has not done so, Tutora requests that the court "DEEM JUST AND PROPER
THAT THE [sic] ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS AND THE [sic] DEPARTMENT
In his "Motion
Id. at 2 (emphasis in original).
Sustaining Default Motion,"
Tutora appears to provide additional
guidance regarding the purpose of his expatriation petition. In this document, Tutora indicates
that he did not intend for the petition to be construed as a complaint; instead,"[h]is intent was by
Law [sic] pursuant [to] title 8 section 1481 subsections [sic] (a)(6) for the respondent to properly
route his request for a RENOUNCEMENT CEREMONY, covered in a EXPATRIATION
Sustaining Default Mot.at ECF p.1,
("[P]etitioner ...was at no time a plaintiff seeking relief.
id. at ECF p.2
It was the determination of [the
respondent's counsel] to revert an E ocument of a petition,to a complaint,obscuring his intent
of a civil petition pursuant to [8 U.S.C.§ 1481(a)(6) and 8 U.S.C. § 1483(c)]."). In addition,
Tutora appears to dispute that he needed to pursue any administrative channels insofar as he
asserts that he "does now ascertain that he should ha[ve] informed the [respondent's counsel]
that her Edocument was in error and if by Law [sic] he was after a criminal history check
Tutora appears to have also evidenced a desire to become a citizen of Ireland. See Motion for Default J. at ECF p.
3 ("To where now he has the rights still to chose a Host, which has been decide to seek IRELAND." (emphasis in
concern for the HOME LAN D SECUR TY ACT of 2002, then his expatriation would have to go
through administrative channels."
Tutora also claims that the Homeland
Security Act of
has direct involvement, checking Interpol for violent and sexually deviant acts.
This intimately concerns petitioner: (1) petitioner is an inactive vetted National
Intelligence Services Crypto logical Science graduate 1981, with a Top Secret
Umbra clearance, to wit seeing duality of his identification since 1984, expected
O.I.L. to inform N.I.S., D.I.A., and all other pertinent Defense Intelligence
Agencies, of such discrepancy to assure that there was no imposter or Foreign
Intelligence Cell, thus having the U.S.Attorney's [sic] of the Eastern District of
Pennsylvania make certain that the petitioner ...was in fact who he claimed to
be, and not an Undocumented Foreign Alien or Cell.
Id. at 2- 3 (emphasis in original).
Although unclear from his initial expatriation petition, the two above-reference motions
evidence Tutora's intent that this petition serve as his request to renounce under 8 U.S. §
1481(a)(6) and that somehow this action is the vehicle by which he can achieve his goal of
renunciation. Tutora is mistaken.
Congress recognized a right to expatriate in the Expatriation Act of 1868, which
"declared that expatriation was the natural and inherent right of all people." Klaudt
No. C V. A. 10-4091-KE S, 2010 WL 5 391571, at *4 ( D.S.D. Dec. 22, 2010) (citing An Act
Concerning the Rights of American Citizens in Foreign
States, ch. 249, 15
Stat. 22 3 (1868)).
'"The stated purpose of the Act was to protect naturalized citizens of the United States while in
foreign jurisdictions.'" Id. (quoting People
Jones, 140 P.3d 325, 327 (Colo.App.2006)). The
Expatriation Act did not "provide rights to someone who has renounced his United
citizenship; rather, it [wa]s intended to provide protections for naturalized American citizens
Since the passage of the Expatriation Act, the Supreme Court has acknowledged that "a
citizen has the right to abandon or renounce his citizenship and Congress can enact measures to
regulate and affirm such abjuration."
Nishikawa v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 129, 139 (1958); see also
Vance v. Terrazas, 444 U.S. 252, 265 (1980) ("Nor do we agree with the Court of Appeals that,
because under [Afroyim v. Rusk, 387 U.S. 253 (1967)] Congress is constitutionally devoid of
power to impose expatriation on a citizen, it is also without power to prescribe the evidentiary
standards to govern expatriation proceedings.").
"Congress has broad authority over the
conditions and procedures which must be satisfied to expatriate." Koos v. Holm, 204 F. Supp. 2d
1099, 1107 (W.D. Tenn. 2002) (citing Davis v. District Director, INS, 481 F. Supp. 1178, 118384 n. 8 (D.D.C. 1979); Tomasicchio v. Acheson, 98 F. Supp. 166, 169 (D.D.C. 1951)).
Through the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1481, Congress has set forth
certain procedures for voluntary expatriation. See 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(l)-(7). More specifically,
section 1481 provides that a United States national "shall lose his nationality by voluntarily
performing" one of seven expatriating acts "with the intention of relinquishing United States
Nationality." 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a).
The first five of the seven expatriating procedures are
inapplicable here because they require the individual seeking renunciation to be located in a
foreign state and Tutora is located in Pennsylvania. See 8 U.S.C. § 148l(a)(l)-(5). Thus, only
subsections (a)(6) and (a)(7) are potentially applicable.
The right to renounce is based in statute and is not "rooted in the Constitution." See Vance v. Terrazas, 444 U.S.
252, 265 (1980) ("Nishikawa was not rooted in the Constitution.") .
8 U.S.C. § 1483(a) addresses "[r]estrictions on loss of nationality" and provides as follows:
Except as provided in paragraphs (a)(6) and
(7) of section 148 l(a) of this title, no national of the
United States can lose United States nationality under this chapter while within the United States
or any of its outlying possessions, but loss of nationality shall result from the performance within
the United States or any of its outlying possessions of any of the acts or the fulfillment of any of
the conditions specified in this Part if and when the national thereafter takes up a residence outside
the United States and its outlying possessions.
Subsection (a)(7) is inapplicable because it requires the person to have "committ[ed] any
act oftreason against,...attempted by force to overthrow,or bear[ed ] arms against the United
States." 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(7). Therefore, only the sixth procedure is potentially applicable
here. It provides that the person seeking to renounce United States citizenship must make
in the United States a formal written renunciation ofnationality in such form as
may be prescribed by, and before such officer as may be designated by, the
Attorney General, whenever the United States shall be in a state ofwar and the
Attorney General shall approve such renunciation as not contrary to the interests
8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(6).8 Although this subsection "refers to the Attorney General, this authority
has since been transferred to the Secretary of Homeland Security."9
Supp.3d 112,118 (D.D.C. 2016) (citing
Turner v. Beers, 5 F.
Kwon Sze v. Johnson,172 F.
Supp. 3d 115,119 (D.D.C. 2013)
and 6 U.S.C. § 557).
Tutora does not mention subsection (a)(6) in his petition; instead, he references subsections (5) and (b). See
Expatriation Pet. at ECF p. 3. Subsection (b) appears to be inapplicable here because the first sentence discusses the
burdens ofproduction and proof ifthe "loss ofUnited States nationality is put in issue in any action or proceeding."
See 8 U.S.C.§ 1481(b) ("Whenever the loss ofUnited States nationality is put in issue in any action or proceeding
commenced on or after September 26, 1961 under, or by virtue of the provisions ofthis chapter or any other Act,
the burden shall be upon the person or party claiming that such loss occurred, to establish such claim by a
preponderance ofthe evidence."). As already stated, Tutora does not appear to state that he has already lost his
United States nationality by committing any ofthe voluntary acts in subsections (1) through (7) ofsection 148l(a);
instead, he appears to seek to have the United States Attorney General for the Eastern District ofPennsylvania (the
court presumes that he is referring to the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania) determine
that he has renounced his nationality.
In addition, the second sentence ofsubsection (b) provides for a rebuttable presumption that anyone who
committed any of the seven expatriating acts in subsection (a) did so voluntarily. See id. ("Any person who commits
or performs, or who has committed or performed, any act ofexpatriation under the provisions ofthis chapter or any
other Act shall be presumed to have done so voluntarily, but such presumption may be rebutted upon a showing, by
a preponderance ofthe evidence, that the act or acts committed or performed were not done voluntarily."). Tutora
has not alleged that he has completed any ofthe expatriating acts in subsection (a), so the second sentence of
subsection (b) is also inapplicable here.
The respondent asserts that although "[t]he bulk [o f] the loss ofnationality provisions under 8 U.S.C.§ 1481(a) are
administered by [the Department of State]," the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS")
currently administers renunciation requests inside the United States (such as those based on section 1481(a)(6)) on
behalfofthe Department ofHomeland Security ("DHS"). See Def's Mero. at 5. Other district courts have also
found that USCIS is responsible for these renunciation requests. See, e.g., Evans v. United States, No. CIV. A 12677, 2012 WL 569705, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 22, 2012) ("Therefore, if[the plaintiff] seeks to renounce his
citizenship, he must take his renunciation request to the appropriate agency, which appears to be [USCIS].");
Kaufman v. Holder, 686 F. Supp. 2d 40, 42 (D.D.C. 2010) ("After remand, the [Attorney General, the Secretary of
the Department ofHomeland Security, and the Secretary ofState] took the position that the Director ofUSCIS is
responsible for administering§ 1481(a)(6), a position that [the plaintiff] has ceased to dispute.").
Here, despite Tutora' s apparent claim that he can bring an expatriation petition before
this court and get the relief he seeks, he has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted for the following reasons:
renounce his citizenship.
First, this court is not the proper forum for Tutora to seek to
Section 1481(a)(6), the only statute Tutora references that is
potentially applicable here, directs that Tutora must submit his formal renunciation request
"before such officer as may be designated by, the Attorney General."
8 U.S.e. § 1481(a)(6).
This statute does not provide the court with the power to grant Tutora' s request to renounce his
It also does not direct that the court is the proper forum for submitting a
renunciation petition. Bringing this action seeking renunciation in federal court is not the same
as making the renunciation request before the appropriate officer designated by the Attorney
General, namely, the Director of Users. Even if it was, Tutora has not named the Director of
users as a respondent and he cannot obtain relief from the respondent.
In addition, Tutora has not alleged that he has submitted a renunciation request to the
Director of users or, if he had, that users failed to respond to his request or otherwise
10 Although not discussed by the respondent in the motion to dismiss, section 1481(a)(6) is applicable only
"whenever the United States shall be in a state of war." 8 U.S.C. § 1481(a)(6). "Congress did not specifically define
the term 'state of war' for purposes of§ 1481(a)(6)." Kaufman, 686 F. Supp. 2d at 43. In addition, neither the
Supreme Court nor the various Courts of Appeals have addressed the meaning of the phrase "state of war" in section
1481(a)(6). The district courts that have discussed this issue have come to conflicting decisions. Compare Keenev.
United States Dep 't of Homeland Sec., No. 3:16cv94/LC/CJK, 2016 WL 2343250, at *3 (N.D. Fla. Apr. 22, 2016)
("Plaintiff cannot avail himself [of subsection (a)(6)] . . . because the United States is not 'in a state of war'"), R. &
R. adopted by, 2016 WL 2343857 (N.D. Fla. May 3, 2016), and Hoodv. United States, No. 2:11CV334-WKW,
2011 WL 6440511, at *1 (M.D. Ala. Dec. 2, 2011) (concluding that plaintiff could not renounce citizenship under
subsection (a)(6) because the United States was not in a state of war), and Perssonv. United States Dep't of State,
No. ED CV-11-0377-GAF (PJW), 2011 WL 1464387, at *2 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 22, 2011) ("Plaintiffs letters to the
State Department did not meet the requirements of§ 1481(a)(6) because the United States is not at war."), and Koos
v. Holm, 204 F. Supp. 2d 1099, 1108 (W.D. Tenn. 2002) ("Contrary to Koos' belief, the United States is not in a
state of war and§ 1481(a)(6) is presently inoperative."), with Kwon Szev. Johnson, 172 F. Supp. 3d 112, 118
(D.D.C. 2016) (assuming without deciding that the United States was in a state of war, but noting differing opinions
on the subject), and Turnerv. Beers, 5 F. Supp. 3d 115, 119 (D.D.C. 2013) ("The Government does not contest that
we are 'in a state of war,' which is a prerequisite for§ (a)(6) to be operative"), and Kaufman, 686 F. Supp. 2d at 4344 (concluding that by applying the plain meaning of "state of war" in subsection (a)(6), the United States was in a
"state of war" in 2004 and 2008 when the plaintiff made his renunciation requests). The court notes that Black's
Law Dictionary defines a "state of war" as [a] situation in which war has been declared or armed conflict is in
progress." State of War, Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). For purposes of this opinion, the court presumes
without deciding that the United States is in a "state of war."
prevented him from renouncing his citizenship.
These failures preclude this action in federal
court. See Evans v. United States, No. CIV. A. 12-677, 2012 WL 569705, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb.
22, 2012) (concluding pro se plaintiff failed to state claim against the United States where he
attempted to "seek a ruling from this Court in the first instance" on his request to renounce his
citizenship instead of making the request before USCIS in the first instance); Walker v. Holder,
714 F. Supp. 2d 44, 48 (D.D.C. 2010) ("In the absence of a request obligating the defendant
agencies to act, the Court finds that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted under the [Administrative Procedure Act], the mandamus statute or the Declaratory
Second, Tutora' s submissions clarify that he is seeking to have the court direct agency
action by having his renunciation petition directed to the proper governmental official, whom
would then grant him a renunciation ceremony.
Essentially, it appears that Tutora is seeking
To the extent that Tutora is seeking mandamus relief, "district courts . . . have original
jurisdiction of any action in the nature of mandamus to compel an officer or employee of the
United States or an agency thereof to perform a duty owed to the plaintiff." 28 U.S.C. § 1361.
Tutora is entitled to relief under section 1361 "only if he has exhausted all other avenues of relief
and only if the defendant owes him a clear, nondiscretionary duty." Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U.S.
602, 616 (1984). Tutora "must allege that an officer of the Government owes him a legal duty
which is a specific, plain ministerial act 'devoid of the exercise of judgment or discretion.' An
act is ministerial only when its performance is positively commanded and so plainly prescribed
as to be free from doubt." Harmon Cove Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Marsh, 815 F.2d 949, 951 (3d Cir.
1987) (quoting Richardson v. United States, 465 F.2d 844, 849 (3d Cir. 1972) (en bane), rev 'd on
other grounds, 418 U.S. 166 (1974)).
As already explained, Tutora has not alleged that he exhausted his administrative
remedies by submitting his request to renounce his United States citizenship to the Director of
USCIS. Additionally, it appears that even if Tutora had exhausted his administrative remedies,
the only relief he would be entitled to would be for the government to respond to his
renunciation request. See Kwok Sze, 172 F. Supp. 3d at 119 ("[C]ourts have frequently held that
the only ministerial duty owed by USCIS under [s]ubsection (a)(6) is to respond to the
renunciant's request." (citing Turner, 5 F. Supp. 3d at 119; Sluss v. United States Citizenship &
Immigration Servs., 899 F. Supp. 2d 37, 41 (D.D.C. 2012); Schnitzler v. United States, 863 F.
Supp. 2d 1, 3 (D.D.C. 2012), rev 'd on other grounds, 761 F.3d 33 (D.C. Cir. 2014)), affd sub
nom., Kwok Sze v. Kelly, No. 16-5090 (D.D.C. 2017).
The court could not require the
government to issue a certificate of loss of nationality because it "is a discretionary act beyond
the jurisdiction of the Mandamus Act." Id. (citations omitted); see also Lozada Colon v. United
States Dep 't of State, 2 F. Supp. 2d 43, 45 (D.D.C. 1998) (addressing "a quasi-constitutional
argument that the Secretary [of State] must approve his certificate [of loss of nationality under 8
U.S.C. § 1481(a)(6)] because of his inherent, natural right to expatriate," by pointing out that
"even if one were to concede Plaintiffs argument that an individual has a fundamental right to
In Kwok Sze, the district court also addressed an argument that the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
Circuit's opinion in Schnitzler
United States, 761 F.3d 33 (D.C. Cir. 2014) rejected the proposition that potential
mandamus relief would only pertain to the ministerial duty ofUSCIS responding to the renunciation request. 172 F.
Supp. 3d at 119. The Kwok Sze court reviewed the Schnitzler decision and concluded that "[t]he Court of Appeals
did not directly address the district court's substantive analysis of the plaintiffs mandamus claim." Id. (citing
Schnitzler, 761 F.3d at 37-39). Instead, the Court of Appeals only concluded that "the district court erred by
dismissing the case without evaluating the merits of plaintiffs claims under the [Administrative Procedure Act]." Id.
(citing Schnitzler, 761 F.3d at 3 8-39). Thus, the district court found "that Schnitzler does not alter the mandamus
analysis performed in a lineage of similar cases-all of which deny requests for mandamus relief by plaintiffs who
seek to renounce their U.S. citizenship while incarcerated." Id. (citing Turner, 5 F. Supp. 3d at 119; Sluss, 899 F.
Supp. 2d at 41; Weber
United States Dep 't ofState, 885 F. Supp. 2d 46, 53 (D.D.C. 2012)).
expatriate, the Secretary of State still would have the discretion to determine whether an
individual has adequately renounced affiliation with the United States so as to trigger that
Finally, as already indicated, Tutora has not alleged that he has requested to renounce his
citizenship from USCIS. Thus, to the extent that Tutora is attempting to bring a claim under the
Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), he has failed to state a claim.
In this regard, "[t]he APA . . . waives federal sovereign immunity in certain
circumstances to allow equitable relief from agency action or inaction." American Disabled for
Attendant Programs Today v. United States Dep't of Housing and Urban Dev., 170 F.3d 381,
383 (3d Cir. 1999). The APA permits a lawsuit by "[a] person suffering legal wrong because of
agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a
relevant statute." 5 U.S.C. § 702. "Agency action" includes "the whole or a part of an agency
rule, order, license, sanction, relief, or the equivalent or denial thereof, or failure to act[.]"
u.s.c. § 551(13).
may "compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed" or
"hold unlawful and set aside agency action" that is determined to be "arbitrary,
capricious, an abuse of discretion," or "short of statutory right." Id. § 706. The
APA allows judicial review of agency actions unless the "(1) statute[ ] preclude[s]
judicial review; or (2) [the] agency action is committed to agency discretion by
law." 5 U.S.C. § 701(a). Whether an agency action falls under prong (2) and is
"committed to agency discretion by law" is determined by a "construction of the
substantive statute involved to determine whether Congress intended to preclude
judicial review of certain decisions." Heckler v. Chaney, 470 U.S. 821, 828-29,
105 S.Ct. 1649, 1654, 84 L.Ed.2d 714 (1985).
American Disabled for Attendant Programs Today, 170 F.3d at 383-84.
With respect to claims that agency action has been "unlawfully withheld or unreasonably
delayed," a complaining party must "assert that an agency failed to take a discrete agency
action that it is required to take."
(2004) (emphasis in original).
Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness All., 542 U.S. 55, 64
Here, Tutora has failed to allege that the USCIS or the current
respondent failed to take any action insofar as he has not alleged that he attempted to submit a
renunciation request before filing the instant petition. Therefore, he has failed to assert a claim
under section 706(1 ).1
Leave to Amend
A district court should generally provide a pro se plaintiff (or petitioner) with leave to
amend unless an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview St. Hosp.,
293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002). Here, Tutora has failed to name the proper respondent and has
improperly attempted to renounce his United States citizenship by filing this petition here in the
first instance. The only reason why the court would grant Tutora leave to amend his petition is
to allow Tutora to possibly allege that he submitted his request to the USCIS and the USCIS has
refused to act on the petition, but it is evident from his responses to the motion to dismiss that
Tutora has not submitted a request to the USCIS and is attempting to use this action as a vehicle
to do so. Therefore, the court finds that granting leave to amend would be futile.1
To the extent applicable, Tutora has failed to state a claim and it is possible that this court lacks jurisdiction over
Tutora's possible claim under the APA because he has not alleged a final agency action. A court will consider
agency action as final if (l) "the action must mark the 'consummation' of the agency's decisionmaking process-it
must not be of a merely tentative or interlocutory nature," and (2) "the action must be one by which 'rights or
obligations have been determined,' or from which 'legal consequences will flow[.]"' Bennett
Spear, 520 U.S. 154,
177-78 (1997) (internal citations omitted). Since Tutora has not alleged that he requested to renounce his
citizenship before USCIS or that USCIS acted upon this request, there is no fmal agency action from which he can
seek judicial review. See Naik v. Director
US. Citizenship and Immigration Servs. Vermont, 575 F. App'x 88, 91-
92 (3d Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (affirming district court decision granting motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction insofar as there was no final agency action). But see Trudeau
FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 183-84 (D.C. Cir.
2006) (explaining that "the APA's fmal agency action requirement is not jurisdictional" (citing Center for Auto
NHTSA, 452 F.3d 798, 805 (D.C. Cir. 2006)).
Although not referenced in the motion to dismiss, other courts addressing actions either under the APA, the
Mandamus Act, or even the Declaratory Judgment Act, have noted that part of the administrative procedure for
renouncing citizenship under subsection (a)(6) involves a personal appearance before the Attorney General's
designee. For example, a district court previously described USCIS's correspondence with a prisoner plaintiff
seeking to renounce under subsection (a)(6) as follows:
Tutora's Motions for Default Judgment
Tutora has filed two motions for default judgment seemingly on the premise that the
respondent improperly responded to his expatriation petition by filing a motion to dismiss
instead of either forwarding his petition to the proper government officials or otherwise moving
toward granting him a renunciation ceremony. Even if Tutora had properly moved for the entry
of default under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (which he has not), he has not asserted any
cognizable basis that would warrant the entry of a default judgment in this case. Accordingly,
the court will deny Tutora's motions for a default judgment.
[In response to Plaintiffs request to renounce under subsection (a)(6),] USCIS indicated that
USCIS could not proceed with his request, and that to "renounce U.S. citizenship while present in
the United States, a person must appear for an interview in person at a designated USCIS office." .
. . USCIS also stated that "USCIS will not interview potential renunciants by phone or video link,
and will not travel to prisons or jails to conduct renunciation interviews." . . . USCIS advised
Plaintiff that upon completion of his term of incarceration, Plaintiff could resubmit his
renunciation request and submit evidence to show that he had satisfied the legal requirements of
Kwok Szev. Johnson, 172 F. Supp. 3d 112, 115-16 (D.D.C. 2016) (internal record citations omitted), affd sub nom.,
Kwok Szev. Kelly, No. 16-5090 (D.D.C. 2017).
Many courts that have addressed actions brought under subsection (a)(6) have determined that prisoners are
unable to perform the acts necessary to renounce their citizenship. See, e.g., Keene, 2016 WL 2343250, at * 3
("Plaintiff is prevented by his incarceration from meeting the additional statutory requirement that he make a
personal appearance before an Attorney General designee."); Frazierv. United States Citizenship and Immigration
vs., No. 12-cv-14533, 2012 WL 5392317, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 5, 2012) ("Plaintiff has lost his right to
renounce his citizenship while he is incarcerated. Until he has served his sentence, he will not be free to perform
those acts needed to renounce his citizenship."); Bradfordv. LeBlanc, No. 12-0427-BAJ-DLD, 2012 WL 5364255,
at *2 (M.D. La. Sept. 19, 2012) ("[C]onsidering the plaintiffs current state of incarceration, it does not appear that
he has the capacity to renounce his citizenship under 8 U.S.C. § 148l(a)."), R. & R. adopted by, 2012 WL 5364262
(M.D. La. Oct. 31, 2012); Hoodv. United States, No. 2:11CV334-WKW, 2011 WL 6440511, at * l (M.D. Ala. Dec.
2, 2011) (determining that prisoner plaintiff could not formally renounce his citizenship while he was incarcerated);
Perssonv. United States Dep't of State, No. ED CV-11-0377-GAF (PJW), 2011 WL 1464387, at*2 (C.D. Cal. Mar.
22, 2011) ("There is no way for Plaintiff to formally renounce his citizenship while he is incarcerated in the United
States and he does not have the right to travel to another country while he is incarcerated in order to renounce his
citizenship."); Koosv. Holm, 204 F. Supp. 2d 1099, 1108 (W.D. Tenn. 2002) (explaining that "[l]awful incarceration
brings about the necessary withdrawal or limitation of many privileges and rights, a retraction justified by the
considerations underlying our penal system" and that "[a]s [the plaintiff] is a prisoner at this time, he may not
exercise [the] right" to renounce his citizenship under section 1481" (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted)); see also Turner, 5 F. Supp. 3d at 119-20 (noting that DHS had responded to the plaintiff prisoner's
renunciation request by indicating that it denied the request because he could not appear for an in-person interview
at a USCIS office, and determining that because the government agreed to hold open the plaintiffs case until his
release from prison, the plaintiffs request for mandamus relief was moot); Duncanv. United States Dep 't of State,
No. 7:08-cv-00564, 2008 WL 4821323, *2 (W.D. Va. Oct. 30, 2008) ("Moreover, courts have uniformly held that
an incarcerated citizen has no right to compel governmental officials to transport him out of the country in order to
facilitate his renunciation of citizenship."). Therefore, it does not appear that Tutora will be able to formally
renounce his citizenship under section 1481 until he has completed his term of incarceration.
As explained above, Tutora has brought this expatriation petition seemingly in an attempt
to evade the administrative processes attendant to a United States citizen's request to renounce
his or her citizenship under 8 U.S.e. § 148l(a)(6).
users, in the first instance, may
consider such a request and Tutora has not alleged that he has filed such a request with USeIS or
users has denied his request to renounce his United States citizenship. It is also apparent
from Tutora's submissions in response to the respondent's motion to dismiss that he has not filed
any such request to date and does not believe that he has to do so (in part because he has filed
this action). Because Tutora is proceeding pro se, the court has liberally interpreted the petition
to conceive of any claim that Tutora could maintain here. It appears that there is no such claim
and, as such, Tutora has failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See, e.g.,
Holder, 714 F. Supp. 2d 44, 47-48
(D.D.e. 2010) (granting defendants' motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) because the plaintiff agreed that even though he wrote to the
defendants to inquire "about the renunciation process, ...he has not alleged that he applied to
Homeland Security or DOJ to renounce his citizenship and was denied"). Accordingly, the court
will dismiss the expatriation petition with prejudice.
renunciation request to
Tutora may still proceed to submit his
users in the first instance.
EDWARD G. SMITH, J.
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