Where an alien requests a declaratory decision about their entitlement to be naturalized, does the initiation of a removal proceedings by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services deprive the district court of jurisdiction?
Writing for the Seventh Circuit last Friday in Trinidad Klene v. Janet Napolitano, Chief Judge Easterbrook described the four-way conflict that exists over the issue:
- One court of appeals has held that the judicial proceeding becomes moot as soon as the administrative proceeding begins, so the suit must be dismissed for lack of a case or controversy. Awe v. Napolitano, 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 17469 (10th Cir. Aug. 20, 2012) (nonprecedential).
- Two courts of appeals have held that district courts lose subject-matter jurisdiction once the removal proceeding begins. Barnes v. Holder, 625 F.3d 801 (4th Cir. 2010); Saba-Bakare v. Chertoff, 507 F.3d 337 (5th Cir. 2007).
- Three courts of appeals have held that §1429 does not affect subject-matter jurisdiction but does prevent the courts from providing a remedy, so judgment must go for the agency on the merits. Ajlani v. Chertoff, 545 F.3d 229 (2d Cir. 2008); Zayed v. United States, 368 F.3d 902 (6th Cir. 2004); Bellajaro v. Schiltgen, 378 F.3d 1042 (9th Cir. 2004).
- One court of appeals has held that subject-matter jurisdiction continues and that a remedy is possible—a declaratory judgment of entitlement to citizenship. Gonzalez v. Secretary of Homeland Security, 678 F.3d 254 (3d Cir. 2012).
The Seventh Circuit ultimately concluded that the district judge mistakenly “thought that he had no discretion to exercise.” As such, the court remanded the case “with instructions to decide whether it is appropriate to resolve the dispute through a declaratory judgment and, if so, to decide the merits.”
[*Hat tip to Shannon Duffy of the American Law Institute.]