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Immigration Law

CA6 on U Visa Waitlisting: Barrios Garcia v. DHS

Barrios Garcia v. DHS

"Edmer Eudulio Barrios Garcia, Doublas Arguijo, Ardiles Yasdami Mendez Mendez, and Sudhaben Pankajkumar Patel are noncitizens. They were victims of grave crimes; they cooperated with law enforcement. They applied for U visas and authorization to work; Mendez Mendez and Patel sought derivative U-visas and work authorization for some of their family members. These noncitizens have waited years for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)—a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—to adjudicate their applications. Plaintiffs have been and remain unable to obtain lawful employment, to visit their family members who live abroad, or to attain deferred action status that would protect them from removal from this country. Plaintiffs sued USCIS and DHS, alleging that the agencies have unreasonably delayed placing the principal applicants on the U-visa waitlist and adjudicating Plaintiffs’ work-authorization applications. While this appeal pended, USCIS announced a new program for persons with pending U-visa applications known as the “Bona Fide Determination Process.” The parties contest whether this nascent program moots Plaintiffs’ claims. We must decide whether this case is moot, whether the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) allows the federal courts to review Plaintiffs’ two claims, the scope of our review, and the claims’ sufficiency. We hold that the issuance of the Bona Fide Determination Process moots no part of this case. We further hold that 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii), and 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2) do not prevent the federal courts from reviewing claims that USCIS has unreasonably delayed placing principal petitioners on the U-visa waitlist and adjudicating pre-waitlist work-authorization applications. We hold that the federal courts may compel USCIS to place principal petitioners on the U-visa waitlist when an unreasonable delay has occurred per 5 U.S.C. § 706(1). We conclude that 8 U.S.C. § 1184(p)(6) and the Bona Fide Determination Process require USCIS to decide whether a U-visa application is “bona fide” before the agency can exercise its discretion and decide whether principal petitioners and their qualifying family members may receive Bona Fide Determination Employment Authorization Documents. We thus hold that 5 U.S.C. § 706(1) permits the federal courts to hasten an unduly delayed “bona fide” determination. But we also hold that § 706(1) does not allow the federal courts to force USCIS to adjudicate pre-waitlist work-authorization applications. To that end, we conclude that Plaintiffs have pleaded sufficient facts that the principal petitioners’ delayed waitlist determinations have harmed Plaintiffs’ health and welfare; Plaintiffs’ waitlist claim should thus survive the Government’s motions to dismiss. Although we cannot review Plaintiffs’ work-authorization claim, the implementation of the Bona Fide Determination Process during this appeal compels us to conclude that Plaintiffs should be permitted to amend their complaints should they wish to challenge any delayed “bona fide” determinations. We thus REVERSE and REMAND. ... We hold that the issuance of the BFD Process moots no part of this case. We hold that 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(1), 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii), and 5 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2) do not bar the federal courts from reviewing claims that USCIS has unreasonably delayed placing principal petitioners on the U-visa waitlist and adjudicating pre-waitlist work-authorization applications. We hold that the federal courts may compel USCIS to place principal petitioners on the U-visa waitlist when an unreasonable delay has occurred per 5 U.S.C. § 706(1). We hold that § 706(1) allows the federal courts to command USCIS to hasten an unduly delayed “bona fide” determination, which is a mandatory decision under 8 U.S.C. § 1184(p)(6) and the BFD process. We hold, however, that the federal courts cannot invoke 5 U.S.C. § 706(1) to force USCIS to speed up an unduly delayed pre-waitlist work-authorization adjudication, which is a nonmandatory agency action under 8 U.S.C. § 1184(p)(6) and the BFD process. We hold that Plaintiffs have sufficiently pleaded that USCIS has unreasonably delayed the principal petitioners’ placement on the U-visa waitlist. We further hold that Plaintiffs should be permitted to amend their complaints should they wish to challenge any delayed “bona fide” determinations. We thus REVERSE the district courts’ grants of the Government’s motions to dismiss and REMAND for further proceedings."

[Hats off to Brad Banias!]