A group of nine long-term resident applicants have filed a petition with the federal court against U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Department of Homeland Security officials in relation to their rejected applications.
Steven Pixley, who represents the petitioners, filed a petition for writ of mandamus against DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Tracy Renaud, USCIS senior official performing the duties of the director, for failing to process their applications.
A writ of mandamus is a petition asking the court to compel a party to act on a matter. In this case, the petitioners are asking the U.S. District Court for the NMI to compel USCIS to process their long-term resident applications.
In an interview with Pixley, he said a writ of mandamus is an extreme remedy to a situation but it is only fitting.
“We understand that asking for a writ of mandamus is extraordinary remedy but we feel like it is appropriate given the circumstances in this case, given the history,” Pixley said.
He said the petitioners are not asking the court to adjudicate their eligibility for long-term status. Instead, they are asking the court to issue an order mandating USCIS to process their applications that were wrongfully rejected.
Back on June 25, 2019, President Donald Trump signed into law the Northern Mariana Islands Long-Term Legal Residents Relief Act. The act allows certain aliens who have resided continuously and lawfully in the CNMI since Nov. 28, 2009, to remain in the CNMI.
According to the petition, pursuant to the instructions promulgated by USCIS, applicants were permitted to apply for long-term status between Feb. 19, 2020, and Aug. 17, 2020.
According to Pixley, the applicants complied with the instructions but the applications were returned based on the “erroneous” determination that the form submitted was outdated. The petitioners resubmitted their applications using a new version of the form.
The applications were again returned because the applications were allegedly filed after the deadline.
“The actions of [USCIS] in rejecting the petitioners’ applications was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to the law,” said Pixley.
On Oct. 29, 2020, the petitioners, through Pixley, again submitted their applications with a declaration articulating their filing history and asked USCIS to process their applications. However, the applications were again returned without explanation.
“The perplexing refusal of [USCIS] to accept the petitioners’ application has wrongfully denied them due process,” he said.
The petitioners are Christine Pramis, Christopher Manalo, Cesar Lopez, Aliilua Peteru, Veisinia Tilisa, Pacifico Rivera, Ferdinand Arago, Anthony Alegre, and Nimfa Tan.