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Daniel v. Diaz

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

August 29, 2017

LUIS ENRIQUE DANIEL, Plaintiff,
v.
YESEIRA DIAZ, Field Office Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          DARRIN P. GAYLES, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss (the “Motion”) filed by Defendants Yeseira Diaz, Field Office Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”); Jefferson B. Sessions III, Attorney General of the United States; and Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS, ” and, together with the other Defendants, the “Government”) [ECF No. 8].[1]The Court has carefully considered the Motion and the record and is otherwise fully advised. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 10, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) denied the application of Plaintiff Luis Daniel (“Daniel”), a native and citizen of Cuba, for adjustment of status under the Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act (“CAA”), Pub. L. No. 89-732, 80 Stat. 1161 § 1 (codified as amended at 8 U.S.C. § 1255 note). Although USCIS determined that Daniel was “eligible for adjustment of status” under the CAA, it determined, based on an evaluation of favora- ble and adverse factors in Daniel's application and interview, that Daniel “ha[d] not met the burden of demonstrating . . . that [he] warrant[ed] a favorable exercise of discretion…” [ECF No. 1-3 at 2]. Namely, USCIS noted that Daniel previously had worked for the Cuban Ministry of the Interior as an investigator in the counterintelligence unit and had worked for CIMEX, the Cuban Import Export Corporation. Id.

         Daniel then filed a lawsuit before this Court, alleging that he timely filed a motion for reconsideration of USCIS's decision, which USCIS denied in a short written decision. See Daniel v. Castro, No. 15-21828 (S.D. Fla. May 14, 2015) (Daniel I).[2]The complaint in Daniel I alleged that USCIS committed procedural error by denying Daniel's motion for reconsideration without explaining the basis for its denial, in violation of 8 C.F.R. § 103.3(a)(1)(i). The Government moved to dismiss Daniel's complaint arguing, first, that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider Daniel's claims because he was challenging the underlying discretionary denial of his CAA application, which is precluded by 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii); and, second, that Daniel's procedural challenge was without merit because USCIS adequately explained its reasons for denying the motion for reconsideration. In response, Daniel conceded that the underlying discretionary denial of his CAA application would be unreviewable by stating that:

If [he] was in fact challenging USCIS' April 10, 2013 discretionary denial of his I-485 application judicial review would be precluded under 8 U.S.C. 1252(a)(2)(B). . . . Because Mr. Daniel's Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status pursuant to Section 1 of the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 is under the purview of the Attorney General's discretion, then USCIS's April 13, 2010 discretionary denial of his application would be unreviewable in this Court despite the lack of any statutory ineligibility.

See Pl. Resp. in Opp. to Defs. Mot. to Dismiss at 3-4, Daniel I (ECF No. 12).

         On September 30, 2015, the Court entered an Order dismissing the Daniel I Complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Daniel I, No. 15-21828, 2015 WL 5727990, at *1 (S.D. Fla. Sept. 30, 2015). On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the Court's decision in a written opinion. Daniel v. Castro, 662 Fed.Appx. 645 (11th Cir. 2016) (per curiam). Although Daniel attempted to argue, for the first time on appeal, that § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii) did not apply to the CAA, the Eleventh Circuit declined to resolve the issue because “Daniel expressly conceded to the district court that the discretionary denial of his CAA application was unreviewable under § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii).” Id. at 649.

         Thereafter, Daniel filed the instant action where he alleges, in direct contradiction to his prior representations to the Court, that “judicial review of USCIS' discretionary decision is not precluded under INA §§ 242(a)(2)(B)(i)-(ii) [8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(B)(i)-(ii)].” [ECF No. 1 at ¶ 12]. Defendants moved to dismiss arguing that Daniel's claims are barred by res judicata.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To survive a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '” meaning that it must contain “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). While a court must accept well-pleaded factual allegations as true, “conclusory allegations . . . are not entitled to an assumption of truth-legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.” Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 709-10 (11th Cir. 2010). “[T]he pleadings are construed broadly, ” Levine v. World Fin. Network Nat'l Bank, 437 F.3d 1118, 1120 (11th Cir. 2006), and the allegations in the complaint are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Bishop v. Ross Earle & Bonan, P.A., 817 F.3d 1268, 1270 (11th Cir. 2016).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Res Judicata

         The doctrine of res judicata (or claim preclusion) “prohibits successive litigation of the very same claim by the same parties.” Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, 136 S.Ct. 2292, 2305 (2016) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). This prohibition bars “the parties or their privies from relitigating issues that were or could have been raised” in a prior action that resulted in a final judgment on the merits. Allen v. McCurry, 449 U.S. 90, 94 (1980); see also Mal-donado v. U.S. Atty. Gen., 664 F.3d 1369, 1375 (11th Cir. 2011). A party seeking to invoke this doctrine must establish the following four initial elements: “(1) there is a final judgment on the merits; (2) the decision was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction; (3) the parties, or those in privity with them, are identical in both suits; and (4) the same cause of action is involved in both cases.” Ragsdale v. Rubbermaid, Inc., 193 F.3d 1235, 1238 (11th Cir. 1999); see also Kaiser Aerospace & Elecs. Corp. v. Teledyne Indus., Inc. (In re Piper Aircraft Corp.), 244 F.3d ...


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