United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
EMBASSY OF THE BLESSED KINGDOM OF GOD FOR ALL NATIONS CHURCH, et al.
ERIC HOLDER, et al
For EMBASSY OF THE BLESSED KINGDOM OF GOD FOR ALL NATIONS CHURCH, GOD'S EMBASSY CHURCH, MYKHAYLYK OLEKSANDR, Plaintiffs: TATIANA S. ARISTOVA, LEAD ATTORNEY, KHAVINSON & ASSOCIATES PC, PLAINSBORO, NJ.
For ERIC H. HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, JANET NAPOLITANO, SECRETARY OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES (USCIS), EVANGELIA KLAPAKIS, DISTRICT DIRECTOR, U.S. CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES (USCIS), Defendants: MELISSA S. LEIBMAN, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPT OF JUSTICE, BEN FRANKLIN STATION WASHINGTON, DC.
Harvey Bartle III, J.
Plaintiffs Embassy of the Blessed Kingdom of God for All Nations Church (" Embassy Ukraine" ), God's Embassy Church located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (" Embassy Philadelphia" ), and Pastor Mykhaylyk Oleksandr (" Oleksandr" ) bring this action against United States Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security Rand Beers, Director of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (" USCIS" ) Alejandro Mayorkas, and USCIS District Director Evangelia Klapakis (together with all defendants, the " Government" ) under the Administrative Procedure Act (" APA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq. The plaintiffs seek to set aside as arbitrary and capricious USCIS's decision denying a 2009 special immigrant petition filed for Oleksandr's benefit by his employer, God's Embassy Church located in Sacramento, California (" Embassy Sacramento" ).
Before us are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment filed under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Government has additionally moved to dismiss Oleksandr as a plaintiff for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Summary judgment is appropriate " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). When, as here, the parties cross-move for summary judgment on an administrative record, they " essentially contend that no issue of material fact exists." Moros v. Conn. Gen. Life Ins. Co., Civil Action No. 12-5468, 2014 WL 323249, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 29, 2014). The propriety of an agency's decision is therefore " a question of law, and only a question of law." Marshall Cnty. Health Care Auth. v. Shalala, 988 F.2d 1221, 1226, 300 U.S.App. D.C. 263 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Review is limited to the administrative record that existed before the agency at the time of the decision, which must be judged solely on the grounds raised by the agency. See Dia v. Ashcroft, 353 F.3d 228, 241 (3d Cir. 2003); C.K. v. N.J. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 92 F.3d 171, 172 (3d Cir. 1996).
This lawsuit concerns USCIS's denial of a petition filed by Embassy Sacramento on September 3, 2009 to obtain special immigrant status for Oleksandr. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (" INA" ), 8 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq., up to 5,000 visas are available to " special immigrants" each year. 8 U.S.C. § 1153(b)(4). One type of special immigrant eligible for such a visa is a religious worker. Id. § 1101(a)(27)(C). A religious worker is an individual who
(i) for at least 2 years immediately preceding the time of application for admission, has been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the United States;
(ii) seeks to enter the United States--
(I) solely for the purpose of carrying on the vocation of a minister of that religious denomination,
(II) before September 30, 2015, in order to work for the organization at the request of the organization in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation, or
(III) before September 30, 2015, in order to work for the organization (or for a bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination and is exempt from taxation as an organization ...