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May 27, 2014

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) was appointed counsel in a petition for review filed at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Mr. Aljabri appealed the district court’s dismissal of his complaint that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) had failed to adjudicate his naturalization application within 120 days of his interview. At the time the complaint was filed, Mr. Aljabri’s application remained pending with USCIS, where it had already been pending for over nine years. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, citing 8 U.S.C.  § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii). Mr. Aljabri’s application was later denied by USCIS, prior to Mr. Aljabri’s filing of a petition for review at the Seventh Circuit.

Counsel argued that 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(2)(B)(ii) does not strip jurisdiction over citizenship matters as the provision does not apply to naturalization and citizenship. Further, counsel countered that the intervening USCIS naturalization denial did not moot out the case because the filing of a petition under § 1447(b) vests the federal courts with exclusive jurisdiction over the naturalization application. Finally, though Mr. Aljabri was ordered removed in absentia during the pendency of his naturalization application, section 1429 does not limit the jurisdiction of federal courts over § 1447(b) matters. Ultimately, counsel maintained, the matter ought to be remanded to the district court to review whether to issue a declaratory judgment regarding Mr. Aljabri’s eligibility for naturalization.

Mr. Aljabri filed the petition for review pro se on January 30, 2012 and counsel argued the case in front of a panel of the Seventh Circuit on September 30, 2013. On March 11, 2014 the Seventh Circuit granted Mr. Aljabri’s petition for review and reversed the judgment of the district court and remanded for further proceedings. The Court “[held], as our fellow circuits have before us, that when an applicant for naturalization has properly invoked § 1447(b) and brought an application to the district court, that court has exclusive jurisdiction over the naturalization application unless and until the matter is remanded to the agency. Therefore, USCIS had no jurisdiction to act on Aljabri’s naturalization application, and his lawsuit is not moot. We express no opinion about what should happen to Aljabri’s application on remand; the district court is fully competent to sort that out and has at its disposal the full range of options given by § 1447(b).”

Mr. Aljabri was represented by Charles Roth and Lisa Koop of NIJC.