4-year delay in green card petition prompts suit

A U.S. citizen who lives in New York and her Taiwanese father who lives in the CNMI are suing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials for what they claim has been a four-year delay in adjudicating his green card petition.

Yen Chien-Li and his daughter have filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in federal court against USCIS District 26 director David Gulick, USCIS director L. Francis Cissna, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen, for alleged violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Chien-Li and his daughter, through counsel Joseph E. Horey, want the U.S. District Court for the NMI to rule that USCIS’ failure to act on their petition is “arbitrary, capricious, short of statutory right, and without observance of procedure required by law.”

The two asked the court to order Gulick, Cissna, and Nielsen to already adjudicate their pending petition and to hold them liable for court costs and attorney’s fees.

According to Horey in the complaint, the daughter, who is a U.S. citizen, filed the application with USCIS on Dec. 8, 2014, on behalf of her father, Chien-Li, to have him classified as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen.

That same day, Chien-Li filed with USCIS an I-485 application for adjustment of status to that of lawful permanent resident based on his family relationship with his daughter.

In January 2015, the two received a request for evidence from USCIS for information about a sponsor. They replied a month later, citing Chien-Li’s brother, who is a U.S. citizen living in the State of Virginia.

Since then, Horey said, the plaintiffs have contacted USCIS on several occasions to follow up on the status of their petition and application.

For example, Horey said, Chien-Li followed up at the Saipan Application Support Center on at least nine times from May 26, 2015, to June 5, 2017.

Chien-Li has also contacted USCIS in writing on Nov. 3, 2015, May 5, 2016, and Feb. 8, 2017.

Horey said Chien-Li has received only vague responses to his inquiries such as: “Your petition/application is still pending consideration,” “We regret we are not able to give you a timeframe for when we will complete the review of your petition/application,” “Our records show that your Form I-485 is currently pending adjudication.”

To this date, Horey said, plaintiffs’ petition and application have not been adjudicated and they have received no further news of any progress toward adjudication.

“Defendants owe a duty to plaintiffs to adjudicate their petition and application, and to do so without unreasonable delay,” the lawyer asserted.

Horey said a two years’ delay in adjudicating a green card petition and application is unreasonable.

“The period of delay in this case has been nearly four years,” said Horey, adding that there are no special circumstances or other reasons justifying the lengthy delay.

He said Chien-Li and his daughter are entitled to a writ of mandamus requiring USCIS to fulfill its duty.

Under the Administrative Procedure Act, Horey pointed out, the reviewing court is authorized to “compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.”

“The failure to adjudicate plaintiffs’ petition and application has been arbitrary, capricious, short of statutory right, and without observance of procedure required by law,” he said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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