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Immigration Law

MAVNI Victory in Minn. - Alam v. USCIS

Alam v. USCIS

"Alam enlisted in the United States Army through MAVNI — a program to provide an expedited path to citizenship for immigrant soldiers with specialized skills. The Army discharged Alam from service for medical reasons and gave him an “uncharacterized” discharge. USCIS denied Alam’s citizenship application under its policy that an “uncharacterized” discharge is not “under honorable conditions.” ... Defendants’ motion to dismiss is denied because the Court finds Defendants’ interpretation of Section 1440 unavailing. First, the plain language of Section 1440 contemplates only two categories of discharge. Second, USCIS must consider military instructions in its analysis: Section 1440 makes characterization of discharge the
responsibility of the military, not USCIS. The Court also declines to place the burden of proving statutory meaning on Alam because statutory interpretation is a question of law. ... [T]his Court finds that the military’s certification of an “uncharacterized” discharge may mean “under honorable conditions” to the military because of DoD instructions. Only by considering the military’s meaning of uncharacterized can the Court ensure, as the Kulkarni court tried to, that “USCIS [has] no role in the military’s certification.” Id. at 918. Any other outcome relies
on USCIS’s meaning of honorable and not the military’s, which Section 1440 expressly prohibits."

[Hats off to Margaret Stock, Neil O'Donnell and Graham Ojala-Barbour!]