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United States v. Singh

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Covington

March 14, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA PLAINTIFF
v.
KARNAIL SINGH DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          William O. Bertelsman, United States District Judge

         The United States brings this action under 8 U.S.C. § 1451(a) to revoke Defendant Karnail Singh's citizenship, alleging that Singh illegally procured his naturalization by inter alia, concealing his use of two identities and his prior immigration history. The Complaint sets forth five “counts, ” or rather five separate grounds for revoking Singh's certificate of naturalization:

Count I: Singh was Not Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence due to Fraud or Willful Misrepresentation.
Count II: Singh was Not Lawfully Admitted for Permanent Residence Because the Immigration and Naturalization Service Lacked Jurisdiction to Adjust his Status.
Count III: Singh Lacked the Requisite Good Moral Character for Naturalization by Virtue of Having Committed Unlawful Acts.
Count IV: Singh Lacked the Requisite Good Moral Character for Naturalization by Virtue of Having Provided False Testimony.
Count V: Singh Procured his Citizenship by Concealment of a Material Fact or Willful Misrepresentation.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Singh's motion to dismiss. (Doc. 6). The Court dispenses with oral argument because the materials before it adequately present the facts and legal contentions, and argument would not aid the decisional process. Accordingly, the matter is ripe for disposition.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part. The Court will only dismiss Count I.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. First Asylum Application and Deportation Order

         On approximately January 21, 1992, Defendant Singh submitted a Form I-589 asylum application (“First Asylum Application”) to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”).[1] (Doc. 1, ¶ 7). The application was submitted under the name KARNAIL SINGH DHILLON and stated that he was born in January 1963 in India and that he last entered the United States in Los Angeles, California on December 28, 1990. Id. at ¶¶ 7-8. As part of the application process, Singh was fingerprinted and then signed the application, certifying that the application and accompanying documents were true and correct. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. In connection with his First Asylum Application, Singh submitted biographic information in Form G-325, dated November 20, 1991 (“1991 Form G-325”) (Doc. 1-3). In that form, Singh represented: (i) his name as KARNAIL SINGH DHILLON; (ii) he was born in January 1963, in India; (iii) he had used no other names; and (iv) that GURMAIL SINGH and JEET KAUR are his father and mother, respectively. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 11-12).

         On January 5, 1993, an INS officer interviewed Singh regarding his First Asylum Application. Id. at ¶ 13. In the interview, Singh reaffirmed the truth of the representations he provided in his First Asylum Application by again signing his application, certifying that the application and all accompanying documents were true and correct. Id. at ¶ 14. On September 29, 1993, INS denied Singh's First Asylum Application. Id. at ¶ 15. Singh subsequently filed an untimely letter of rebuttal and attached a warrant for his arrest in India, indicating that he committed or is suspected of having committed terrorist activity and murder in violation of the Indian Penal Code. Id.

         On December 7, 1993, INS initiated deportation proceedings against Singh and issued a Form I-221, Order to Show Cause and Notice of Hearing (“OSC”). Id. at ¶ 16. INS alleged Singh was deportable under 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(1)(B) because he entered the United States without having been inspected and admitted or paroled. Id. INS served the OSC on Defendant by certified mail on January 4, 1994. Id. Singh personally appeared in immigration court. Id. at ¶ 17. Singh was then personally served with a Notice of Hearing, stating the date and time of a third hearing. Id. When Singh failed to appear, the immigration judge entered an order in abstentia on January 25, 1995, ordering that Singh be deported to India. Id. Singh, however, did not depart the United States between January 1995 and May 2002. Id. at ¶ 18.

         B. Second Asylum Application and Application for Permanent Residence

         On July 20, 1994, Singh submitted a second Form I-589 asylum application (“Second Asylum Application”) to INS, this time under the name KARNAIL SINGH. Id. at ¶ 19. In the application, Singh represented that: (i) he was born in December 1968 in India; (ii) he was detained in jail without charges for a total of approximately eleven months, beginning in January 1992; and (iii) he last entered the United States at San Ysidro, California on May 5, 1994, after transiting through Mexico. Id. at ¶ 20. Singh was fingerprinted and signed his Second Asylum Application, certifying that the application and all accompanying documents were true and correct. Id. at ¶¶ 21-22.

         In connection with his Second Asylum Application, Singh submitted biographic information in a second Form G-325A, dated July 11, 1994 (“1994 Form G-325A”) (Doc. 1-4), in which he represented: (i) his name as KARNAIL SINGH; (ii) he was born in December 1968, in India; (iii) that TARSEM SINGH and TARA KAUR are his father and mother, respectively; and (iv) that he had used no other names, given that he left blank the question requesting that he provide “All Other Names Used.” Id. at ¶¶ 25-26.

         On September 21, 1995, Christine Smith, on behalf of Singh and representing herself as Singh's wife, filed a Form I-130 petition (“Visa Petition”). Id. at ¶ 28. KARNAIL SINGH was listed as the visa beneficiary. Id. In the petition, Smith represented: (i) that Singh was born in December 1968, in India; (ii) his last arrival in the United States was without inspection on May 5, 1994; and (iii) that Singh had never been under immigration proceedings, including exclusion, deportation, rescission, or judicial proceedings. Id. at ¶ 29. In connection with the petition, Singh submitted biographic information in a third Form G-325A, dated September 21, 1995 (“1995 Form G-325A”), in which he represented: (i) his name as KARNAIL SINGH: (ii) he was born in December 1968, in India; (iii) TARSEM SINGH and TARA KAUR are his father and mother, respectively; and (iv) that with respect to “All Other Names Used, ” there were “None.” Id. at ¶¶ 30-31.

         On May 30, 1996, Singh submitted a Form I-485 application to register for permanent residence or adjust his status (“Adjustment Application”) (Doc. 1-5), under the name KARNAIL SINGH. (Doc. 1, ¶ 33). In the application, Singh stated: (i) that he was born in December 1968, in India, and last arrived in the United States on May 5, 1994; (ii) the first name of his father and mother, respectively, is TARSEM and TARA; (iii) he had never been arrested, cited, charged, indicted, fined, or imprisoned for breaking or violating any law, or ordinance, excluding traffic violations; (iv) he had never been deported from the United States or removed from the United States at government expense or excluded within the past year and was not currently in exclusion or deportation proceedings; and (v) that he had never, by fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact, sought to procure, or procured, a visa, other documentation, entry into the United States, or any other immigration benefit. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34; (Doc. 1-5).

         On May 5, 1996, Singh signed his Adjustment Application, certifying that the application and evidence submitted with it was true and correct. (Doc. 1, ¶ 35). In connection with his Adjustment Application, Singh submitted biographical information in a fourth Form G-325A, dated May 5, 1996 (“1996 Form G-325A”). In form Singh represented: (i) his name as KARNAIL SINGH; (ii) he was born in December 1968, in India; and (iii) that TARSEM SINGH and TARA KAUR are his father and mother, respectively. Singh left blank the question requesting that he provide “All Other Names Used.” Id. at ¶¶ 37-38.

         On March 11, 1997, an INS officer interviewed Singh regarding his Adjustment Application. Id. at ¶ 40. During the interview, Singh indicated that the police in India jailed him for eleven months in 1992 and 1993, without a court hearing, for possession of firearms. Id. at ¶ 41. Singh also reiterated his application responses in the negative; specifically: he was not currently in deportation proceedings and he had never sought to procure an immigration benefit by fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact. Id. Singh then signed his Adjustment Application a second time, affirming that any changes he made to the application in the course of the interview were based on sworn testimony. Id. at ¶ 42.

         On May 9, 2002, INS approved Singh's Adjustment Application. Id. at ¶ 45. Sing then sent a letter to USCIS on April 16, 2003, requesting to withdraw his Second Asylum Application. Id. at ¶ 46. On April 22, 2003, USCIS withdrew Singh's Second Asylum application. Id.

         C. Naturalization Proceedings

         On July 7, 2008, Singh filed a Form N-400 application for naturalization (“Naturalization Application”) (Doc. 1-6), under the name KARNAIL SINGH, claiming he was born in December 1968. Id. at ¶ 47. Several questions in the application are relevant to the allegations in this matter.

         First, in Part 1, question C of the application states, “If you have ever used other names, provide them below.” Singh wrote in “None.” Id. at ¶ 48. Second, in Part 10(D), question 15 asks, “Have you ever committed a crime or offense for which you were not arrested?” Id. at ¶ 51 (emphasis in original). Singh marked the box for “No.” Id. Next, in Part 10(D), question 23 inquires: “Have you ever given false or misleading information to any U.S. government official while applying for any immigration benefit or to prevent deportation, exclusion or removal?” (emphasis in original). Id. at ¶ 54. Again, Singh marked the box for “No.” Id. Then, in Part 10(D), question 24 asks: “Have you ever lied to any U.S. government official to gain entry or admission into the United States?” Id. at ¶ 59 (emphasis in original). Singh again marked the box for “No.” Id. Lastly, in Part 10E, question 27 inquires: “Have you ever been ordered to be removed, excluded or deported from the United States?” Id. at ¶ 62 (emphasis in original). Singh marked the box for “No.” Id.

         On about June 30, 2008, Singh signed his Naturalization Application under penalty of perjury, thereby certifying that his application and the evidence submitted with it were true and correct. Id. at ¶ 65.

         On October 16, 2008, Singh appeared before a USCIS officer and was placed under oath for an interview concerning the information Singh provided in his Naturalization Application. Id. at ¶ 66. When the officer asked Singh to verify Part 10(D), question 15, Singh orally responded in the negative, thereby testifying under oath that he had never committed a crime or offense for which he had not been arrested. Id. at ¶ 67.

         Five corrections, however, were made to Singh's Naturalization Application during the interview, [2] and at the conclusion Singh again signed the application, thereby certifying under penalty of perjury that the information provided in the application (as revised), as well as any evidence submitted in support of the application, was true and correct to the best of Singh's knowledge and belief. Id. at ¶ 70. That same day, USCIS approved Singh's Naturalization Application. Id. at ¶ 71.

         Thereafter, on January 15, 2009, Singh was administered the oath of allegiance, granted United States citizenship, and issued Certificate of Naturalization No. 31891035. Id. at ¶ 72.

         D. Federal Criminal Charges and Guilty Plea

          On June 16, 2013, Singh was crossing the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan, and presented his passport card to United States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) officers in order to gain entry into the United States. The name on the passport card was KARNA1L SINGH, and the date of birth was listed as December 1968. See (Doc. 1-2 at 4, 19). In speaking with the CBP officers, Singh stated that he had never used any other names or spelling variations of his name; nor had he ever used any other dates of birth. Id. at 19.

         Based on these events, Singh was charged on August 16, 2013, in a two-count indictment with: (1) knowingly using a passport unlawfully obtained or otherwise procured by fraud or means of a false claim or statement, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a); and (2) knowingly and willfully making false, fictitious, and fraudulent material statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the executive branch of the United States (i.e., Singh's conversation with CBP officers), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001(a)(2). Id. at 18-19; (Doc. 1, ¶ 73).

         On January 23, 2014, Singh entered into a Plea Agreement, in which the government agreed to dismiss Count II (making a false material statement), and Singh agreed to plead guilty to Count I (use of a fraudulently obtained passport). (Doc. 1, ¶ 74); (Doc. 1-2, Plea Agreement at 1, 7).

         The factual basis for the guilty plea, to which Singh agreed, establishes that (1) under the name KARNAIL SINGH DHILLON (born in January 1963), he applied for asylum in 1991, he was denied asylum, ordered deported, and failed to appear for deportation as ordered; and (2) under the name KARNAIL SINGH (born in December 1968), he applied for asylum a second time in 1994, applied for his status to be adjusted to that of a permanent resident as the spouse of a United States citizen, failed to disclose on his Adjustment Application that he had previously applied for and been denied immigration benefits under another identity, was granted permanent resident status as a result of such fraud, withdrew his Second Asylum Application, and ultimately applied for and obtained naturalization as a United States citizen. (Doc. 1, ¶ 75); (Doc. 1-2 at 2-3).

         On May 30, 2014, based on the Plea Agreement, the district court found Singh guilty of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1546(a), dismissed Count I on the government's motion, and sentenced Singh to 12 months' probation. (Doc. 1, ¶ 76); (Doc. 1-2 at 21-23).

         Seeking to now revoke Singh's naturalization, the Government filed this action on May 18, 2018. Attached to the Complaint, as required by 8 U.S.C. § 1451(a) to show good cause for the action, is the affidavit of Heather Wylde, Immigration Services Officer with USCIS. (Doc. 1-1).

         LEGAL STANDARD

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that pleadings, including complaints, contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). To satisfy this requirement, a complaint must contain enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).

         A complaint may be attacked for failure “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Even though a “complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).

         When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “all factual allegations in the complaint must be presumed to be true” and the court must draw all “reasonable inferences” in favor of the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). To that end, a court must judge the sufficiency of a complaint under a two-pronged approach: (1) disregard all “legal conclusions” and “conclusory statements”; and (2) determine whether the remaining “well-pleaded factual allegations, ” accepted as true, “plausibly give rise to entitlement to relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-81 (2009).

         Accordingly, “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A claim becomes plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at 678. That is, the plaintiff's “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). If, from the well-pleaded facts, the court cannot “infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         ANALYSIS

         I. Legal Framework

         Although Singh's motion to dismiss does not challenge whether the Government has satisfied the statutory requirements for revoking his citizenship, the Complaint is best understood against the backdrop of the relevant law concerning both naturalization and denaturalization.

         A. Naturalization Requirements and the Denaturalization Statute

         Along the path to U.S. citizenship “there must be strict compliance with all the congressionally imposed prerequisites.” Fedorenko v. United States, 449 U.S. 490, 506 (1981); see also 8 U.S.C. § 1429 (“[N]o person shall be naturalized unless he has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence in accordance with all applicable provisions of [the Immigration and Nationality] Act, ” 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq. ...


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