United States District Court, S.D. Texas, Houston Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
LAKE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ghassan Adnan Hadi ("Plaintiff" or
"Hadi") filed this action on August 3, 2017,
against Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of the United States
Department of Homeland Security, and Mark Siegl, a Field
Office Director for United States Citizenship &
Immigration Services ("Defendants") seeking de
novo review of his denied application for
naturalization. Pending before the court is Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defendants' MSJ")
(Docket Entry No. 24) . For the reasons explained below,
Defendants' MSJ will be granted.
Factual and Procedural Background
applied for naturalization by submitting a form N-400,
Application for Naturalization ("N-400") to United
States Citizenship and Immigration Services
("USCIS") on November 22, 2013, on the basis of
having been a Lawful Permanent Resident for at least five
years. Hadi was interviewed by Immigration
Service Officer Nancy Kugler ("ISO Kugler") on
August 24, 2014. ISO Kugler placed Hadi under oath and
conducted and recorded an administrative hearing on his
January 13, 2015, USCIS denied Hadi's naturalization
application because he failed to demonstrate that he had been
a person of good moral character during the statutory
period. USCIS based this finding on false
statements made by Hadi to ISO Kugler during his
naturalization interview. USCIS found that Hadi failed to
disclose that he had used several other names in the past.
USCIS also found that Hadi provided inconsistent testimony
about his (and his family's) service in the Iraqi
military and his connection to the Ba'ath Party, which
was affiliated with the totalitarian regime of Saddam
Hussein. Accordingly, USCIS determined that Hadi
had given "false testimony to obtain an immigration
benefit" at his naturalization interview and was
therefore statutorily barred from being found to be a person
of good moral character. See 8 U.S.C. § 1101(f)(6)
("No person shall be regarded as, or found to be, a
person of good moral character who, during the period for
which good moral character is required to be established is,
or was-- . . . one who has given false testimony for the
purpose of obtaining any benefits under this chapter. .
filed a timely administrative appeal in February of
2015. On July 14, 2015, Hadi appeared before ISO
Donna Jones ("ISO Jones") for an interview in
connection with his appeal. ISO Jones placed Hadi under oath
and conducted and recorded an administrative
hearing. The recording of Hadi's interview with
ISO Jones ended abruptly while ISO Jones was still
questioning Hadi. On April 4, 2017, USCIS reaffirmed its
January 15, 2015, denial of Hadi's N-400 on the ground
that Hadi failed to establish that he was a person of good
filed this action on August 3, 2017, seeking de novo
review of his denied application for
naturalization. Defendants' MSJ argues that Hadi
"cannot as a matter of law establish that he was and
continues to be a person of good moral character during the
requisite period, and has otherwise failed to create a
genuine dispute of material fact as to whether he has met his
burden of demonstrating good moral
Summary Judgment Standard
judgment is appropriate if the movant establishes that there
is no genuine dispute about any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). Disputes about material facts are genuine "if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc.. 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986). The
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law if
"the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient
showing on an essential element of her case with respect to
which she has the burden of proof." Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986) .
moving for summary judgment "must 'demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact,' but need
not negate the elements of the nonmovant's
case." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d
1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (per curiam) (quoting
Celotex, 106 S.Ct. at 2553). "If the moving
party fails to meet this initial burden, the motion must be
denied, regardless of the nonmovant's response."
Id. If the moving party meets this burden, Rule
56(c) requires the nonmovant to go beyond the pleadings and
show by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories,
admissions on file, or other admissible evidence that
specific facts exist over which there is a genuine issue for
reviewing the evidence "the court must draw all
reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it
may not make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products,
Inc., 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2110 (2000) . The court resolves
factual controversies in favor of the nonmovant, "but
only when there is an actual controversy, that is, when both
parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts."
Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
U.S.C. § 1421(c) the district court reviews USCIS's
decision to deny a naturalization application de
novo. Aparicio v. Blake way, 302 F.3d 437, 445
(5th Cir. 2002). An applicant for naturalization must satisfy
certain statutory and regulatory requirements. See,
e.g., 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101, 1427, 1429, 1430; 8
C.F.R. §§ 310, 312, 316. The applicant for
naturalization "shall bear the burden of establishing by
a preponderance of the evidence that he or she meets all of
the requirements for naturalization." 8 C.F.R. §
316.2(b). Because citizenship once granted cannot lightly be
taken away, ”'doubts should be resolved in favor of
the United States and against the claimant.'"
Berenyi v. District Director, Immigration and
Naturalization Service, 87 S.Ct. 666, 671 (1967). When
an applicant fails to show that he has met all statutory
requirements for becoming a naturalized citizen, summary
judgment for the government may be appropriate. Chan v.
Gantner, 464 F.3d 289, 295-96 (2d Cir. 2006); see
also Kariuki v. Tarango, 709 F.3d 495, 503 (5th Cir.
2013) (holding that a "hearing de novo" within the
meaning of the INA encompasses review on summary judgment
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56).
eligible for naturalization under 8 U.S.C. § 144 0, an
applicant must demonstrate that he "has been and still
is a person of good moral character" during the five
years prior to the submission of his application for
naturalization, and continuing throughout the naturalization
process. 8 U.S.C. § 1427(a); 8 C.F.R. §§
316.10(a)(1), (a)(2). Certain statutory bars preclude a
finding of good moral character. See 8 U.S.C. §
1101(f). One of the statutory bars mandates that "[n]o
person shall be regarded as, or found to be, a person of good
moral character who, during the period for which good moral
character is required to be established, is or was . . . one
who has given false testimony for the purpose of obtaining
any benefits under" the Immigration and Nationality Act
("INA"). 8 U.S.C. § 1101(f)(6).
"Testimony" is limited to oral statements made
under oath and does not include other types of
misrepresentations or concealments, such as false statements
on documents or statements not made under oath. Kungys v.
United States, 108 S.Ct. 1537, 1551 (1988). The false
information need not have been material to trigger the
statutory bar. Id. at 1552. For the statutory bar in
§ 1101(f) (6) to apply, the dishonest statements need
only be made with the subjective intent of obtaining an
immigration benefit. Id.
an applicant is not statutorily barred from demonstrating
that he is a person of good moral character under §
1101(f)(6), § 1101(f) also contains a
"catch-all" provision: "The fact that any
person is not within any of the [statutorily barred] classes
shall not preclude a finding that for other reasons such
person is or was not of good moral character." 8 U.S.C.
§ 1101(f). In determining whether an applicant meets the
requirement of the catch-all provision, the adjudicator must
consider all of the petitioner's evidence on factors
relevant to the determination of good moral character.
United States v. Dana, 488 F.3d 1135, 1139 (9th Cir.
2007) . Moral character determinations are made on a
"case-by-case basis taking into account the elements
enumerated in this section and the standards of the average
citizen in the community of residence." 8 C.F.R. §
argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because Hadi
is statutorily barred from establishing that he is a person
of good moral character under § 1101(f)(6).
Alternatively, Defendants argue that even if Hadi is not
statutorily barred from establishing good moral character,
Hadi cannot meet his burden of proof to demonstrate that he
is of good moral character under § 1101(f)'s
summary judgment to be appropriate, Defendants must show that
there are no genuine disputes of material fact as to
Hadi's inability to demonstrate that he is of good moral
character. If Defendants satisfy this initial burden, Hadi
must show through admissible evidence that disputed fact
issues remain. See Kariuki. 709 F.3d at 505
("[E]vidence of Kariuki's prior bad conduct was
relevant to ruling on his naturalization application, and
Kariuki needed to rebut it with sufficiently probative
evidence of good present conduct to survive summary
cite two categories of false testimony that statutorily bar
Hadi from proving that he is of good moral character: (1)
Hadi failed to disclose all of his names in his interview
with ISO Kugler, and (2) Hadi made false and misleading
statements regarding his and his family's affiliation
with the Ba'ath Party and the Iraqi military to ISOs
Kugler and Jones. Because Hadi bears the burden of proving
that he is of good moral character, Hadi bears the burden of
showing that he did not testify falsely. See
Berenyi, 87 S.Ct. at 671 ...