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Doe v. Dordoni

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

August 12, 2019



          Joseph H. McKinley Jr., Senior Judge United States District Court

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [DN 82], Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Expert Witness Testimony of David Ware [DN 81], and Defendant's Motion to Exclude Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert, Sanjay Sethi [DN 85]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision. For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion to Exclude Expert Witness Testimony is DENIED as moot, and Defendant's Motion to Exclude Expert Witness Testimony is DENIED as moot.

         I. Background

         The parties do not dispute the essential facts of this case. John Doe[1] was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and is a citizen of Pakistan. [DN 1 ¶ 9]. In 2013, Doe left Pakistan and came to the United States to pursue an engineering degree. [Id. ¶ 6]. He applied and was accepted to Western Kentucky University (“WKU”). [Id.]. While Doe was a student at WKU, he had all the necessary documentation for proof of his legal admission into the U.S. and his enrollment at an American university. [Id. ¶ 7-8]. Specifically, Doe held a valid F-1 Visa-a nonimmigrant visa for individuals wishing to study in the U.S. [Id.].

         Although a Muslim, after Doe came to the U.S., he began attending Christian church services. [DN 84-1 at 51:13-19]. He largely kept his interest in Christianity to himself. [DN 1 ¶ 11]. He eventually confided this to some of his Muslim friends, who warned him of possible negative consequences under Islamic law. [Id. ¶ 12]. Doe also confided in his uncle who later disclosed Doe's secret to Doe's father, which led to Doe's father withdrawing his financial support. [Id.]. Doe alleges that because of his father's decision, he was unable to enroll in classes for the Spring 2015 semester. [Id.].

         In early 2015, Doe's father requested that he return to Saudi Arabia. [DN 84-1 at 55:9- 25]. Doe initially believed he needed to return home because his father and mother were separating. [Id.]. Before traveling, Doe sought the advice of George Dordoni. [DN 1 ¶ 15]. Dordoni is WKU's Senior International Student and Scholar Advisor. [DN 82-1 at 4]. He describes himself as an individual with “almost thirty years of experience in recruitment of international students, international student immigration regulations, and international student advising.” [Id.].

         During their meeting, Doe asked Dordoni how he could take a leave of absence from school while still maintaining his status as a student. [DN 1 ¶ 15]. Doe alleges that Dordoni counseled him on the process of submitting his Form I-20 to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility for Non-Immigrant (F-1) Student status. [Id. ¶ 17]. An I-20 is a document that certifies an international student is currently enrolled at an American university and is thus eligible to return to the U.S. on a student visa. [DN 84-2 at 57:4-9]. A valid Form I-20 allows a student to travel abroad for five months before returning. [Id. at 61:1-7]. Doe alleges that, on this basis, Dordoni assured him he could leave the U.S. to visit his family abroad and that he would be granted re-entry to complete his studies at WKU. [DN 1 ¶ 18].

         Doe contends that, in reliance upon Dordoni's advice, he left the U.S. on February 14, 2015, and traveled to Saudi Arabia. [Id. ¶ 19]. Doe states that he was forcibly detained by his family for the purpose of re-indoctrinating him into the teachings of Islam. [Id. ¶ 20]. Doe says he was physically punished when he failed to follow his father's orders. [Id.]. Eventually, three months later, Doe feigned resignation of his interest in Christianity and his father consented to his return to the U.S. and WKU. [Id. ¶ 21].

         In early May 2015, while still in Saudi Arabia, Doe emailed Dordoni to see if he was cleared to return to the U.S. [Id. ¶ 22]. Dordoni, in response, checked Doe's status on a program known as iStart. iStart, also known as Sunapsis, is a software program used by WKU to track the status of international students enrolled at the university. [DN 84-2 at 29:20-25]. iStart operates internally and is designed to interface with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (“SEVIS”), a government-operated computer program under the control of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). [Id. at 27:9-23; 29:25-30:3]. The government uses SEVIS to track the status of international students within the U.S. The compatibility of the iStart program with SEVIS allows the government and WKU to exchange international student information and records. [Id.].

         In February 2015, WKU learned that iStart was not updating student records in SEVIS because of a glitch in iStart. [Id. at 66:12-22]. On February 23, 2015, Dordoni discovered that certain students' records that were input into iStart had not synced correctly with SEVIS. [Id. at 70:14-24]. Dordoni states that the glitch affected 1, 039 student records. [Id. at 73:3-5]. Various WKU officials attempted to correct the glitch and resolve the issue. [Id. at 67:2-5]. By March 2015, Dordoni believed the issue was resolved. [Id. at 72:2-9]. Dordoni checked a random selection of student records and, upon review, confirmed that the records were correct. [Id. at No. 74:1-5]. Based on the review of those random “few” student records, Dordoni concluded that the fix implemented by WKU IT corrected all affected records. [Id. at 74:3-18].

         When Dordoni checked Doe's status in iStart in May, the program reflected that he was still an active student and was able to re-enter the country. [Id. at 29:20-25]. Dordoni did not check SEVIS to confirm that it had corresponding information. Based on his check of the iStart records, Dordoni confirmed to Doe that his I-20 remained active and that he was set to return to the U.S. [DN 1 ¶ 23].

         Doe flew back to the U.S. on May 17, 2015, arriving at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. [Id. ¶ 24]. Upon arrival, Doe was directed to secondary inspection, where a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (“CBP”) officer told him he would not be allowed in the country because he was no longer registered as a university student. [Id.]. The information contained in SEVIS incorrectly characterized Doe's status as “inactive” and his I-20 was terminated on April 27, 2015 due to “failure to enroll.” [DN 82, Exhibit J]. Doe alleges that because of his SEVIS status, he was treated as an illegal immigrant and immediately detained. [DN 1 ¶ 28]. Thereafter, Dordoni took several steps to try to remedy Doe's incorrect SEVIS status. [DN 82-1 at 8].

         The CBP officer handling Doe's case asked whether there was any other basis upon which he could be allowed into the U.S., otherwise, the officer explained, Doe would be deported. [DN 84-1 at 112:6-10]. Fearing deportation, Doe told the officer about his conversion from Islam to Christianity. [Id. at 113:4-10]. Doe testified that he told the officer that he did not want to go back to Saudi Arabia because of what happened to him while there. [Id. at 114:24-115:2]. Based upon his statements to CBP, Doe was subjected to the asylum interview process and was detained.

         Doe spent the night of May 17, 2015, at the airport. [Id. at 119:1-6]. Thereafter, he was transferred to an ICE holding facility in Farmville, Virginia. [Id. at 119:7-8, 119:21-24]. Doe was paroled from immigration custody on June 15, 2015. [DN 84-5 at 67]. Doe ultimately obtained ...

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