United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
REMILEKUN K. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, et al. Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
Rosenthal Chief United States District Judge
April 2014, Remilekun Davis filed a N-400 naturalization
application, seeking naturalization based on his military
service. Davis interviewed for naturalization in March 2015.
The United States Citizen and Immigration Services determined
that Davis was ineligible for naturalization because he
failed to demonstrate good moral character. Davis
administratively appealed the Service's decision, which
was denied on March 20, 2017. Davis sued, seeking judicial
review in this court.
government moved for summary judgment on the ground that, as
a matter of law, Davis cannot establish himself as a person
of good moral character. (Docket Entry No. 46). Davis
cross-moved for summary judgment on the same issue. (Docket
Entry No. 48).
on a careful consideration of the motions, the responses, and
the reply, the administrative record, and the applicable law,
Davis's motion for summary judgment is denied and the
government's motion for summary judgment is granted. The
reasons are set out below.
history is unclear. He had changed his own accounts of his
life frequently. Any history he has provided is unreliable,
to say the least. Davis claims to be “stateless,
” because he knows neither where he was born nor where
his parents were born or currently are. Davis previously
filed an asylum application in January 1997. Davis was
ordered to show cause and appear before an immigration judge,
but he failed to do so. The court granted Davis voluntary
departure. Davis failed to leave the United States
voluntarily and was ordered removed. Instead, Davis moved to
Missouri and got a driver's license under a different
name. (Docket Entry No. 8 at 1-2).
served in the U.S. Army between April 2001 and August 2004,
and was involuntarily discharged under honorable conditions.
(Docket Entry No. 47 at 66). The Army Discharge Review
Board's record does not explain his discharge. He has
applied for military naturalization four times, without
success: once in 2004, twice in 2009, and once again in 2014.
(Docket Entry No. 8 at 2). Davis twice used fraudulent
documents to attempt to obtain citizenship. In 2003, Davis
pleaded guilty to making a false statement on an application
for a U.S. passport by using a fraudulent birth certificate.
(Docket Entry No. 47 at 59). In 2005, he pleaded guilty to
making a false claim to citizenship and a false declaration
before a grand jury. (Docket Entry No. 47 at 94).
meets three of the four requirements for military
naturalization. He served honorably in the military during a
designated period of hostility, was separated honorably from
the military, and was lawfully admitted to the United States
as a permanent resident after enlistment. The issue is the
fourth and final requirement: whether Davis can establish
himself as a person of good moral character.
March 2015, Davis interviewed with the United States Citizen
and Immigration Services as part of his most recent
naturalization application. During that interview, he made
several undeniably false statements. First, Davis testified
to never having used fraudulent identification documents to
apply for or obtain any type of federal government benefit.
In response to the question, “Have you ever used a
false name or identity to apply for or obtain any type of
U.S. Government benefit?” he said, under oath,
“No ma'am.” (Docket Entry No. 47 at 29).
Davis used several false identities to obtain a fraudulent
birth certificate and a state-issued driver's license.
Davis also used a falsified birth certificate to apply for a
U.S. passport and a false Social Security number to obtain
his High School Equivalence Certificate.
also stated in his interview that he did not know the
circumstances surrounding his discharge from the Army
Reserve, nor did he know if he had been discharged
voluntarily or involuntarily. This was false. Davis had
previously stated in an application to USCIS that he had been
discharged from the military because he had used fraudulent
documents to enlist. Davis had also received a letter from
the Army Discharge Review Board stating that his discharge
had been involuntary.
when asked if he knew that the birth certificate he had used
to apply for a U.S. passport was fraudulent, Davis responded
“no ma'am.” But Davis separately admitted
under oath that he had altered his two-year-old
daughter's birth certificate and submitting it with his
passport application as his own. Davis pleaded guilty to this
does not dispute the government's claim that he gave
false testimony in his naturalization interview. Davis
contends that, because his false testimony was immaterial and
made without subjective intent to obtain a government
benefit, it does not bar his naturalization. The government
argues that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law
because the statute does not require materiality and the
parties do not dispute the falsity of Davis's testimony.
The Government's Motion for Summary Judgment
government argues that Davis is ineligible to naturalize
under 8 U.S.C. § 1440 because he cannot show his good
moral character during the relevant period. (Docket Entry No.
46). The parties do not dispute that Davis made false
statements under oath during his March 2015 naturalization
interview, which the government argues bars his
naturalization as a matter of law. The government contends
that each false statement, standing alone, is enough to bar
government identifies three categories of Davis's false
statements: (1) statements about his past identities used to
obtain government benefits; (2) statements about the
circumstances of his discharge; and (3) statements about his
fraudulent passport application. The government alleges that
because Davis made each false statement with the intent to
obtain an immigration benefit, he is precluded from
establishing good character under § 1101(f)(6).
government also argues that the court is not limited to
considering Davis's conduct during the year before his
naturalization application, but “may take into
consideration as a basis for such determination [of good
moral character] the applicant's conduct and acts at any
time prior to that period.” 8 U.S.C. § 1427(e).
The government points to Davis's history of multiple
convictions for crimes of dishonesty as evidence of a larger
pattern of false statements and misrepresentations in
attempts to obtain government documents and United
responds that the government has failed to prove that he made
the false statements “with the subjective intent to
obtain an immigration benefit.” (Docket Entry No. 49 at
4). Davis argues that the government has failed to show how
his past crimes bear on his present moral character but
instead argues only that they come “dangerously
close” to the definition of an aggravated felony under
the Act. (Id. at 5). Finally, Davis argues, the
government applies the wrong legal standard to assess his
Davis's Motion for Summary Judgment
cross-moves on the basis that the regulation the government
cites to argue that any falsity, regardless of materiality,
bars naturalization is invalid under Chevron.
See 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(b)(2)(vi). Applying the
first step in the Chevron framework, Davis argues
that the implementing statute unambiguously requires
materiality. To interpret the statute otherwise, Davis
argues, would make the subjective-intent requirement
meaningless. Davis argues that even if the statute is silent
or ambiguous as to materiality, the regulation fails
Chevron step two because the agency's
interpretation is unreasonable. Davis argues that the Fifth
Circuit held in Gonzalez-Maldonado v. Gonzales, 487
F.3d 975, 978 (5th Cir. 2007), that a misrepresentation must
be material to bar cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C.
§ 1229(b)(1), based on the same “good
character” statute at issue here. To require
materiality in one context but not another, Davis argues,
would create an unreasonable result that Congress did not
intend. Davis also points to the Supreme Court's recent
decision in Maslenjak v. United States, 17 S.Ct.
1918 (2017), ...