United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
W. GRIMM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Stella Adaobi Obioha, an immigrant from Nigeria, has lived in
the United States for more than 30 years, remaining in the
country long after an immigration judge ordered her removal.
In August 2018, following years of efforts to stave off her
deportation, she urged U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement ("ICE") to stay her removal on
humanitarian grounds. The application asserted her removal to
Nigeria "would be a sure death warrant" because
physicians in Nigeria are not equipped to treat her serious
medical conditions, which include "late renal disease,
kidney cancer and a brain tumor." Appl. for Stay 2, ECF
NO.1-.. ICE denied the application.
Obioha brought this lawsuit against then-Acting Attorney
General Matthew Whitaker and other federal
officials in January 2019, alleging ICE's brief
and undated letter denying her application "violated her
due process right to a meaningful decision." Compl.
2, ECF NO.1. The question before me is whether Dr.
Obioha has properly invoked this Court's jurisdiction.
conclude she has not. Section 1252(g) of Title 8 of the U.S.
Code bars this Court from hearing "any cause or claim by
or on behalf of any alien arising from the decision or action
by the Attorney General to . . . execute removal
orders." 8 U.S.C. S 1252(g). Dr. Obioha's claim
falls into this category. See Moussa v. Jenijer, 389
F.3d 550, 554 (6th Cir. 2004); Candra v. Cronen, No.
18-10823-PBS, 2019 WL 764752, at *4 (D. Mass. Feb. 21, 2019).
The case, accordingly, must be dismissed.
by no means Dr. Obiohass first encounter with the federal
courts. As it happens, the Fourth Circuit has already had
occasion to chronicle much of the backstory that sets up this
case. See generally Obioha v. Gonzales, 431 F.3d
400, 403-04 (4th Cir. 2005). I will not repeat the
court's account here, except to note that Dr. Obioha
conceded her removability in 2000 and, after failing to
voluntarily depart, was ordered removed to Nigeria.
See 2004 BIA Decision 6, ECF No. 18-1;
Obioha, 431 F.3da4 403-04.
years since, Dr. Obioha has repeatedly sought to persuade
authorities that her removal to Nigeria would endanger her
life. In 2005, she argued that her abusive ex-husband, with
the acquiescence of Nigerian officials, would torture her for
divorcing him and exposing his criminal activities.
See April 2006 BIA Decision 3-4, ECF No. 18-2. In
2012, she argued the militant Islamist group Boko Haram might
target her because of her Western education and Christian
faith. 2014 BIA Decision 5, ECF No. 18-5. Her requests for
relief were denied each time.
Form 1-246 application for a stay of removal, dated August
27, 2018, echoed her previous claims that removal to Nigeria
would put her life in jeopardy; this time, though, the stated
concern was not a risk of violence, but a threat to her
health. See Appl. for Stay 1. The application
asserted she was suffering from kidney cancer, late renal
disease, and a brain tumor. See Id. It suggested,
first, that she was not likely to receive adequate treatment
in Nigeria for her renal problems and kidney cancer. See
Id. at 2. It also said there was a chance she would need
a radiation treatment called CyberKnife if her brain tumor
grows. See Id. That treatmen,, it said, is
unavailable in Nigeria, as is advanced surgical care. See
denied the application. See Suppl., ECF No. 17. In
an undated letter, Acting Deputy Field Office Director Craig
Fohl wrote that he had "carefully considered" the
application and "did not find a compelling reason that
would warrant a favorable exercise of discretion in [Dr.
Obiohas]] case." Id. The letter did not provide
any further explanation for the denial.
October 12, 2018, ICE officers in Baltimore issued a warrant
to seize Dr. Obioha and take her into custody. See
Warrant of Removal, ECF No. 1-3. Three days later, the agency
picked her up and flew her to New York en route to Nigeria.
See Compl. ¶ 41. Her attorney swiftly filed a
petition and emergency motion in the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit, advising the court that she had
"just learned this afternoon that Ms. Obioha will be
deported tonight." Emergency Motion 2, Obioha v.
Sessions, No. 18-2211 (4th Cir. Oct. 15, 2088), ECF
NO.1-.. The court immediately granted the motion, staying the
deportation "pending appeal." Oct. 15, 2018 Order,
Obioha, No. 18-2211 (4th Cir. Oct. 15, 2018), ECF
case proceeded to briefing. Ultimately, on November 19, 2018,
the Fourth Circuit dismissed it for lack of jurisdiction.
Dismissal Order, Obioha, No. 18-2211 (4th Cir. Nov.
19, 2018), ECF No. 21. The court's brief order explained
that the Department of Homeland Security's
("DHSss") denial of her application for a stay of
removal was not a "final order of removal," as
would be required to invoke the appellate court's
jurisdiction under 8 U.S.C. S 1252(a)(1). Id.
lawsuit soon followed. On February 11, 2019, nearly six weeks
after Dr. Obioha filed her Complaint in this Court, her
attorney moved for an emergency stay of her removal.
Emergency Mot., ECF NO.9. The motion, filed shortly before
close of business, stated that counsel "just learned
this afternoon that Defendant intends to remove Ms. Obioha
tomorrow." Id. ¶ 3. It warned that the
consequences of removal "may indeed be fatal to the
Plaintiff in light of her alleged medical problems and
repeated hospitalization.. Id. ¶ 4-5.
promptly granted the motion and scheduled a telephone
conference call with counsel for all parties. See
ECF Nos. 11, 15. During the call, which was held the
following day, defense counsel indicated it would seek to
dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. Counsel further
noted that Dr. Obiohass travel papers expire on March 14,
2019. See Defs.' Reply 1, ECF No. 22.
directed the parties to brief the jurisdictional question on
an expedited basis. See ECF No. 15. The issue has
now been fully briefed. See ECF Nos. 18, ...