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Edison Rivera v. Katherine Patterson

November 14, 2011

EDISON RIVERA, PLAINTIFF
v.
KATHERINE PATTERSON, FIELD OFFICE DIRECTOR, USCIS, MIAMI, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THIS MATTER is before me on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 22). I have reviewed the arguments, the record, and the relevant legal authorities. For the reasons provided, the Defendants' Motion is granted.

I.BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Edison Rivera brings this action seeking judicial review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' ("BIA") decision affirming the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service's ("USCIS")*fn1 denial of an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative ("I-130 petition") filed on Plaintiff's behalf. *fn2 Plaintiff alleges that the agency's action, findings, and conclusions were arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise unlawful. Administrative Procedures Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). Plaintiff also seeks mandamus relief pursuant to the Mandamus Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1361. In specific, Plaintiff argues that the USCIS's denial of Erycka Rivera's I-130 petition was not based on substantial and probative evidence, and was arbitrary and capricious.
The parties agree on the material facts leading up to the USCIS's denial of the I-130 petition at issue in this case.*fn3 Plaintiff is a native and citizen of Colombia, who entered the United States as a non-immigrant visitor for pleasure on June 25, 1991, and remained in this country. On July 10, 1998, Plaintiff married Gesselle Giraldo, a U.S. citizen. On July 15, 1998, Giraldo filed an I-130 petition on Plaintiff's behalf, as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. See 8 U.S.C. § 1154; 8 C.F.R. § 204.1(a)(1). In support of their marriage, Giraldo and Plaintiff submitted photographs, one joint 1998 tax return, joint bank statements, Plaintiff's tax returns for 1995, 1996, and 1997, joint credit cards, and automotive insurance records. On November 22, 1999, Giraldo and Plaintiff appeared for an interview before the Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") on the I-130 petition.

On November 22, 1999, the INS issued to Giraldo a Notice of Intent to Deny ("NOID"), alleging marriage fraud because of discrepancies between their respective testimonies. In the NOID, the agency pointed to discrepancies regarding several issues, including: (i) whether Giraldo's daughter was present at their first date; (ii) whether Giraldo was living alone or with her brother when she and Plaintiff moved in together; (iii) what items Giraldo moved into the residence; including, whether Giraldo moved the baby's crib into the residence or whether Plaintiff purchased a new crib as a gift for Giraldo; (iv) the timing of the marriage proposal; (v) the timing of the couple's departure to their wedding; (vi) the person who cared for Giraldo's daughter; and (vii) Plaintiff's normal, routine work schedule. In the NOID, the agency asked Giraldo to respond with explanations and evidence. Neither Giraldo nor Plaintiff' responded to the NOID. Rivera contends that they did not receive the notice. On June 26, 2000, the INS denied the I-130 petition, finding marriage fraud. Neither Giraldo nor Plaintiff filed an appeal. On June 1, 2000, Giraldo and Plaintiff divorced.

On August 3, 2000, Plaintiff married Erycka Rivera, a U.S. citizen. On April 11, 2001, Erycka Rivera filed an I-130 petition on Plaintiff's behalf, as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. On August 4, 2003, the USCIS issued a NOID to Erycka Rivera informing her that Plaintiff had previously sought to obtain an immigration benefit based on a fraudulent marriage and asking that she provide additional documentation to explain why the petition should not be denied on this ground. Neither Erycka nor Plaintiff responded to the NOID. Plaintiff contends they did not receive the notice. On January 21, 2004, the USCIS denied the I-130 petition, citing prior marriage fraud under 8 U.S.C. § 1154(c).

On September 31, 2007, Erycka Rivera filed a new I-130 petition on Plaintiff's behalf. On March 7, 2008, Plaintiff and Erycka Rivera appeared for an interview before the USCIS, in connection with the new application. On November 18, 2009, the USCIS issued a NOID to Erycka Rivera, citing prior marriage fraud under 8 U.S.C. § 1154(c). On December 17, 2009, Plaintiff and Erycka Rivera responded to the NOID, and provided an affidavit seeking to explain the discrepancies between Plaintiff's and Giraldo's testimonies in 1999. On January 8, 2010, the USCIS denied Erycka Rivera's second I-130 petition on Plaintiff's behalf. On February 10, 2010, Plaintiff filed an appeal to the BIA. On September 3, 2010, the BIA affirmed the USCIS's denial of the petition and adopted the rationale set forth in the USCIS's decision. Plaintiff subsequently filed the present lawsuit seeking judicial review of the agency's actions.

II.LEGAL STANDARDS

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The function of the trial court is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986). "The moving party bears the initial burden to show the district court . . . that there is no genuine issue of material fact that should be decided at trial. Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991). Only when that burden has been met does the burden shift to the non-moving party to demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment." Id. Any inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).

"The focal point for judicial review of an administrative agency's action should be the administrative record." Preserve Endangered Areas of Cobb's History, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs, 87 F.3d 1242, 1246 (11th Cir. 1996). "[E]ven in the context of summary judgment, an agency action is entitled to great deference." Id. "The role of the court is not to conduct its own investigation and substitute its own judgment for the administrative agency's decision." Id. Instead, the reviewing court must apply "the appropriate standard of review to the agency decision based on the record the agency presents to the reviewing court." Id. (internal quotations omitted).

III.ANALYSIS

Under the APA, a court must set aside an administrative agency's final decision where it is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.

5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A); Marsh v. Oregon Natural Res. Council, 490 U.S. 360, 375-76 (1989). "This standard of review provides the reviewing court with very limited discretion to reverse an agency's decision. The reviewing court may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency but must, instead, defer to the agency's technical expertise." City of Oxford, Ga. v. F.A.A., 428 F.3d 1346, 1352 (11th Cir. 2005) (internal citations omitted).In reaching a decision, an agency "must examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action including a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made." Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983) (internal quotation marks omitted). Although a court may not "supply a reasoned basis for the agency's action that the agency itself has not given," it must "uphold a decision of less than ideal clarity if the agency's path may reasonably be discerned." Id.

As set forth above, this Court's inquiry is limited to whether the BIA and the USCIS arbitrarily and capriciously denied Erycka Rivera's I-130 petition on the basis of prior marriage fraud.*fn4 Having conducted this limited inquiry, I find that the agency's decision to deny Erycka Rivera's Petition was not arbitrary and capricious. Review of the administrative record reveals that the agency's decision was based on substantial and probative evidence. The decisions articulate a ...

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