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Shah v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

December 17, 2019

UZMA SHAH et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP & IMMIGRATION SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER RE: MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on the Parties' cross-motions for Summary Judgment. Dkts. #23 and #29. Plaintiffs Uzma Shah and her husband Pratap Sundavadara bring this action to challenge Defendant United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”)'s finding that their marriage was not bona fide and was entered into for immigration purposes, ultimately resulting in the denial of Plaintiff Shah's I-130 visa petition. Plaintiffs filed this action challenging that decision as arbitrary and capricious under the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”). For the reasons stated below, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion and DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs seek judicial review of USCIS's September 30, 2017, denial of the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative that Plaintiff Shah filed on October 28, 2015, on behalf of Plaintiff Sundavadara. Dkt. #1, ¶¶ 1.1, 8.2. Plaintiff Shah is a naturalized United States citizen who immigrated from Pakistan. Dkt. #30, Declaration of Michelle R. Lambert (“Lambert Decl.”), Ex. 1. Plaintiff Sundavadara is a citizen of India. Id. Shah and Sundavadara married on August 18, 2015, in King County, Washington. Id. By filing the I-130 Petition, Plaintiff Shah sought to qualify Plaintiff Sundavadara as her spouse under section 201(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”). Id. Plaintiff Sundavadara also filed a Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Dkt. #1 at ¶ 8.2.

         In support of the I-130 Petition, Plaintiff Shah provided documentary evidence of her marriage to Plaintiff Sundavadara. This included their birth certificates, divorce decrees from prior spouses, lease agreement, utility bills, photos, marriage certificate, bank statements, personal correspondence, and other documents. Lambert Decl., Ex. 2. Seven months later, USCIS scheduled the couple for an interview at the Seattle Field Office.

         On May 2, 2016, Plaintiffs appeared for the interview with an immigration Services Officer. Lambert Decl., Ex. 3. At the interview, Plaintiffs provided testimony under oath and provided documentary evidence to establish their marriage. Lambert Decl., Ex. 4 at 1. The Services Officer interviewed Plaintiffs separately concerning the bona fides of their marriage. Id.; see also Lambert Decl., Ex. 5.

         USCIS maintains that Plaintiffs testified inconsistently with each other or with their documentary evidence. Defendants state:

For example, Plaintiff Sundavadara stated that he proposed marriage in a restaurant in Federal Way, yet Plaintiff Shah claimed that he proposed to her by email prior to returning to Seattle. [Lambert Decl., ] Ex. 4, Decision, at 2. As for their living arrangements, on their G-325A, biographic information forms, Plaintiffs both claimed to have moved in together in August 2015, under a jointly signed lease. Id., at 3. However, at their interviews, they both testified that only Plaintiff Sundavadara lived at the listed address and that Plaintiff Shah continued to live in Federal Way with her children. Id. When asked, separately, about activities that Plaintiffs engaged in together, neither provided a detailed response. Id. When specifically asked what Plaintiffs did during their last day off, Plaintiffs' stories contradicted one another. Id.

Dkt. #29 at 4-5. Because of these discrepancies, the case continued for additional review. Id.

         On August 9, 2016, at 7:15 in the morning, two immigration officers conducted a site visit. Dkt #30-4 at 4. The officers advised Plaintiff Shah that they were at the home to talk about Plaintiffs' pending applications with USCIS. Id. Ms. Shah greeted the officers at the door, went back inside for a few minutes, then admitted the officers. Id. For security reasons, the officers asked how many people were in the residence at that time. Id. Ms. Shah stated three-herself and her two daughters, who were sleeping. Id. The officers asked where Plaintiff Sundavadara was currently, and she stated that he was at work at Lucky Casino (this is later to be corrected to the Emerald Queen Casino). Dkt #30-4 at 4. When asked to see Plaintiff Sundavadara's mail, Plaintiff Shah stated that it was in her car, and was unable to show the officers any mail currently in the home belonging to him because she tends to throw it away after he looks at it. Id.

         The officers repeatedly asked for evidence of Mr. Sundavadara's possessions being in the house-clothes, etc. They observed only female clothes being in the closet, and only a few t-shirts, shorts, or sweatpants that could be male clothes. Id. When asked to see Mr. Sundavadara's razor, Plaintiff Shah produced a pink razor, which she claimed to be his. Id. Plaintiff Shah claimed there was no shaving cream because Mr. Sundavadara shaves with soap. When asked where Mr. Sundavadara keeps his underwear and socks, Ms. Shah said she would have to look in the laundry, found none in the laundry, then stated that Mr. Sundavadara does not wear underwear. Id.

         The officers then checked two other bedrooms, one which obviously belonged to one of the daughters and the other which was locked. At first Ms. Shah said that this bedroom belonged to her other daughter, but then that daughter walked in from the outside of the house. Id. Ms. Shah then instructed the occupant of the room to open the locked door, and a man named Syed Ali was revealed. This man said he was the father of the two girls and Ms. Shah's ex-husband. Id. Although Ms. Shah and Mr. Ali stated that he was just “lying down and resting, ” the officers believed he had spent the night at the house. Id. As stated by USCIS: “[t]he officers advised Mr. Ali that his car is cold, and that combined with him being in a bedroom sleeping in the home without socks while his daughters were also still asleep, and appearing to be just waking up himself, indicates that he may have been at the residence for a while, possibly overnight. Mr. Ali stated that his car does not heat up, even when he drives to Portland, but provided no explanation or clarification to the timeline of events in question that morning.” Id. at 5.[1]

         On March 8, 2017, USCIS issued a notice of Intent to Deny (“NOID”) advising that evidence supporting the petition was insufficient and giving Plaintiffs 30 days to respond. Dkt #30-3. Plaintiffs submitted additional documents, such as bills, mail, pictures, and fertility records. However, on September 30, 2017, USCIS determined that these records did not overcome ...


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