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Raj & Co. v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington

January 14, 2015

RAJ AND COMPANY, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES, and U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, Defendants

Page 1242

For Raj and Company, Plaintiff: William Frick, MERCER ISLAND, WA.

For U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an agency of the United States Government, Department of Homeland Security, an agency of the United States Government, Defendants: Kristin Berger Johnson, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE (SEA), SEATTLE, WA.

Page 1243

ORDER ON CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

This matter comes before the Court pursuant to Motion for Summary Judgment by Plaintiff, Raj and Company (" Raj" ) (Dkt. # 16), and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (" USCIS" ) and the United States Department of Homeland Security (Dkt. # 19). Plaintiff moves the Court to reverse USCIS's denial of Plaintiff's petition for an H-1B " specialty occupation" visa. Neither party has requested oral argument, and the Court deems it unnecessary. Having considered the parties' memoranda and the underlying administrative record, and for the reasons stated herein, the Court grants Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and denies Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Raj & Company is a ten-person company based in Yakima, Washington that operates gas stations, convenience stores, and hotels. Dkt. # 14, Certified Administrative Record (" AR" ) at 218. On October 13, 2011, Raj filed a Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS seeking to classify Rashna R. Kajal, a citizen of the Republic of Fiji, as a nonimmigrant special occupation worker under section 101(a)(15)(H)(i)(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (" INA" ). AR at 213 et seq. Raj sought to employ Ms. Kajal as " Marketing Analyst & Specialist" out of its Yakima office for a three-year period in order to assist the company in assessing market and geographical opportunities for expanding its hotel and convenience store business in the region and throughout the state. Id. at 23, 217-18. Ms. Kajal has earned a Bachelor of Science degree and certificate in Business Management and Marketing from Brigham Young University in Hawaii and provided copies of her diploma and transcripts to USCIS. Id. at 269-70.

On February 2, 2012, USCIS issued a Request for Evidence, asking Raj to submit additional evidence pertaining to the subject job offer, including evidence of the need for the proffered position, information regarding Raj's business operations, and any documentation about industry practices or Raj's own past employment practices related to employment of market research analysts. AR at 12-13. Plaintiff responded with substantial amounts of evidence on April 27, 2012. Id. at 14 et seq. USCIS nonetheless denied the H-1B visa application on October 27, 2012 on the sole grounds that Raj had failed to demonstrate that the proffered position qualifies as a specialty occupation within the meaning of applicable regulations. Id. at 2-9.

Page 1244

As a result, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint on January 25, 2014. Dkt. # 1 (Compl.). Plaintiff thereby moves the Court to reverse USCIS's decision and order the agency to grant Plaintiff's H1-B Petition, pursuant to section 706 of the Administrative Procedure Act (" APA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 706. Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. # 16), and Defendants filed a response and Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. # 19).

APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Judicial Review of Administrative Decision

The Administrative Procedure Act authorizes judicial review where a person " suffer[s] legal wrong because of agency action, or [is] adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of the relevant statute." 5 U.S.C. § 702. The reviewing district court is, in turn, empowered to set aside a final agency action if it is " arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The standard is " highly deferential, presuming the agency action to be valid." Kern County Farm Bureau v. Allen, 450 F.3d 1072, 1076 (9th Cir. 2006). Even so, the reviewing court properly sets aside an agency decision where " there is no evidence to support the decision or if the decision was based on an improper understanding of the law." Kazarian v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 596 F.3d 1115, 1118 (9th Cir. 2010) (internal citation omitted).

The agency's factual findings are reviewed for substantial evidence and will not be disturbed " unless the evidence presented would compel a reasonable finder of fact to reach a contrary result." Family Inc. v. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 469 F.3d 1313, 1315 (9th Cir. 200) (internal citation omitted; emphasis in original). Similarly, the court gives the agency's interpretation of its own regulations " substantial deference" and " controlling weight unless doing so is inconsistent with the regulation or plainly erroneous." Independent Acceptance Co. v. California, 204 F.3d 1247, 1251 (9th Cir. 2000). If ...


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