United States District Court, D. Arizona
Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge
issue is Plaintiff United States of America's
(“Government”) motion for judgment on the
pleadings, which is fully briefed. (Docs. 29, 33, 34.) Also
before the Court is the Government's motion to strike
Defendant Muriel Iris Brown's affirmative defenses (Doc.
27), to which Defendant did not respond. For the following
reasons, the Government's motion for judgment on the
pleadings is granted, and its motion to strike
Defendant's affirmative defenses is granted pursuant to
following facts have been alleged by the Government and
admitted by Defendant in her answer.
has used at least two aliases to enter the United States:
“Claudia Theodora Abisodu Fisher” and
“Muriel Iris Brown.” In 1995, the Government
issued an order of removal of Defendant. She departed the
United States sometime between 1995 and 1998. At that time,
she went by the Fisher name.
January 1998, Defendant applied for refugee status using the
Brown name. Her application was approved and Defendant was
admitted to the United States as a refugee in June 1998. In
December 1999, Defendant applied for adjustment to lawful
permanent resident (“LPR”) status. Defendant
received LPR status in February 2001 and was naturalized in
May 2004. However, when applying to become a refugee, LPR,
and citizen, Defendant did not disclose her Fisher alias,
alternative alien registration number, or previous order of
Government filed this action in 2018. In Count II of its
amended complaint, the Government alleges that Defendant
unlawfully procured her citizenship because she was not
eligible for adjustment to LPR status-a prerequisite to
naturalization. Based on Defendant's admissions in her
answer, the Government now moves for judgment in its favor on
Count II pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).
motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c)
“is properly granted when, taking all the allegations
in the non-moving party's pleadings as true, the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fajardo v. Cty. of L.A., 179 F.3d 698, 699 (9th Cir.
1999). Either party may move for judgment on the pleadings.
Qwest Communications Corp. v. City of Berkeley, 208
F.R.D. 288, 291 (N.D. Cal. 2002). “A plaintiff may move
for judgment on the pleadings if the answer fails to
controvert material facts alleged in the complaint.”
Id. Accordingly, when ruling on a motion for
judgment on the pleadings filed by a plaintiff,
“[u]ncontested allegations to which the other party had
an opportunity to respond are taken as true.”
8 U.S.C. § 1451(a), the government may file a complaint
to revoke naturalization if a citizen's naturalization
was ‘illegally procured[.]'” United
States v. Teng Jiao Zhou, 815 F.3d 639, 642 (9th Cir.
2016). “Naturalization was ‘illegally
procured' if the individual did not meet the statutory
requirements for citizenship.” Id. at 643
(citing Fedorenko v. United States, 449 U.S. 490,
506 (1981); United States v. Dang, 488 F.3d 1135,
1139 (9th Cir. 2007)). Because loss of citizenship “can
have severe and unsettling consequences, ” “[t]he
evidence justifying revocation of citizenship must be clear,
unequivocal, and convincing and not leave the issue in
doubt.” Fedorenko, 449 U.S. at 505 (citation
omitted). “If the government meets it high burden,
however, a court must enter a judgment of denaturalization-it
lacks any discretion to do otherwise.” Teng Jiao
Zhou, 815 F.3d at 642.
Count II of the amended complaint, the Government alleges (1)
Defendant's departure from the United States pursuant to
an order of deportation rendered her inadmissible for a
period of ten years, (2) as a result, Defendant could not
have lawfully adjusted to LPR status in 2001, and (3)
Defendant therefore was and is ineligible for naturalization.
A straightforward application of the law to the facts alleged
in the complaint and admitted in the answer compels this
requirement for citizenship is that an applicant must first
have been lawfully admitted to the United States as an LPR. 8
U.S.C. §§ 1427(a)(1), 1429. “The term
‘lawfully' denotes compliance with substantive
legal requirements, not mere procedural regularity.”
Kyong Ho Shin v. Holder, 607 F.3d 1213, 1217 (9th
Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). Thus, even an alien who
obtained LPR status through a “negligent mistake made
by the government” will be deemed not lawfully admitted
if she did not substantively comply with all requirements.
Savoury v. United States Att'y Gen., 449 F.3d
1307, 1317 (11th Cir. 2006); see Kyong Ho Shin, 607
F.3d at 1217 (“[A]ll grants of LPR status that were not
in substantive compliance with the immigration laws [are]
void ab initio.”). A refugee seeking to adjust to LPR
status must demonstrate admissibility as an immigrant. 8
U.S.C. § 1159. An alien who has departed the United
States under an order of removal and who later seeks
admission is inadmissible within ten years of her departure.
8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(9)(A)(ii)(II).
undisputed that Defendant departed the United States sometime
between late 1995 and January 1998 while under an order of
removal. Defendant reentered the United States as a
refugee in January 1998, sought adjustment to LPR status in
1999, and obtained LPR status in 2001-all before the
expiration of the ten-year bar on admission. Hence, ...