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Melgar v. Barr

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 2, 2019

Gilma Geanette Melgar and Aurelia Concepcion Martinez, Plaintiffs,
v.
William P. Barr, [1] Kirstjen Nielsen, Lee Cissna, Donald Neufeld, Robert Cowan, Leslie Tritten, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Defendants.

          Brittany S. Bakken, Esq., and David L. Wilson, Esq., Wilson Law Group, counsel for Plaintiffs.

          Anna Emily Juarez and Erin M. Secord, Assistant United States Attorneys, United States Attorney's Office, counsel for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         This case presents a question of statutory interpretation between the interplay of two provisions under the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), 8 U.S.C. § 1101, et seq.: (1) the designation of Temporary Protected Status (“TPS”) under § 1254a, and (2) the adjustment of status to Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) under § 1255(a). The Court now considers Plaintiffs Gilma Geanette Melgar and Aurelia Concepcion Martinez's (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) First Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 23) and Defendants William P. Barr, III, Kirstjen Nielsen, Lee Cissna, Donald Neufeld, Robert Cowan, Leslie Tritten, U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (collectively, “Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss.[2](Doc. No. 16.)

         The sole issue before the Court is whether TPS beneficiaries are deemed “inspected and admitted” to satisfy the threshold requirement for adjustment of status to LPR. For the reasons discussed below, the Court holds that they are. Consequently, the Court grants Plaintiffs' First Motion for Summary Judgment and denies Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. The Court remands the matter to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) for adjudication consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.

         BACKGROUND

         There is no dispute as to the facts asserted in Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs are each TPS beneficiaries whose applications for status adjustment to LPR were denied by USCIS. (Compl. ¶¶ 55, 69.) Plaintiff Gilma Geanette Melgar. (“Melgar”) is a citizen of El Salvador who entered the United States unlawfully without inspection in February 1992. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 46.) Plaintiff Aurelia Concepcion Martinez (“Martinez”) is a citizen of Honduras who entered the United States unlawfully without inspection in November 1996. (Id. ¶¶ 4, 60.) The Attorney General designated both El Salvador (March 9, 2001) and Honduras (January 5, 1999) as TPS countries. (Id. ¶¶ 38, 41.) Following the corresponding designations, Plaintiffs each timely applied to USCIS for TPS. (Id. ¶¶ 48, 62.) Plaintiffs both disclosed to USCIS that they entered the United States without inspection. (Doc. Nos. 26 ¶ 3, 27 ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs were each approved for TPS and subsequent extensions by USCIS. (Compl. ¶¶ 49-50, 63-64.) In early 2018, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, terminated TPS for El Salvador and Honduras effective September 9, 2019 and January 5, 2020, respectively. (Id. ¶¶ 39, 42.)

         In December 2016, Melgar's adult daughter, who is a United States citizen, petitioned for an immigrant visa for Melgar as an immediate relative. (Id. ¶ 51.) Likewise, on August 27, 2017, Martinez's adult daughter, who is a United States citizen, petitioned for an immigrant visa for Martinez as an immediate relative. (Id. ¶ 65.) Plaintiffs also applied for family-based status adjustment to LPR in conjunction with their daughters' petitions. (Id. ¶¶ 51, 65.)

         In response, USCIS issued a request for evidence of lawful admission or parole into the United States. (Id. ¶¶ 52, 66.) Plaintiffs each timely responded to the request with documentation of their TPS and a copy of Bonilla v. Johnson, 149 F.Supp.3d 1135 (D. Minn. 2016), holding that TPS approval satisfied the admission requirement under INA § 245(a). (Id. ¶¶ 53, 67.) USCIS nonetheless denied Plaintiffs' applications for adjustment of status, asserting that a grant of TPS is not an admission.[3] (Id. ¶¶ 55-56, 69-70.) Plaintiffs commenced this action for review of USCIS' denials under the Administrative Procedures Act.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if 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). Courts must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Weitz Co., LLC v. Lloyd's of London, 574 F.3d 885, 892 (8th Cir. 2009). However, “[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed ‘to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.'” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1).

         The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank of Mo., 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The nonmoving party must demonstrate the existence of specific facts in the record that create a genuine issue for trial. Krenik v. Cty. of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment “may not rest upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986).

         II. ...


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