United States District Court, D. Maryland
KABIR M. BUHARI, Petitioner,
GREGORY COLLETT, ET AL., Respondents.
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Kabir M. Buhari, a native of Nigeria and U.S. naturalization
applicant, brought this action under 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b),
which permits a naturalization applicant to seek relief in
the District Court if the agency does not make a
determination within 120 days after the naturalization
interview. ECF No. 1. Pending before the Court is a Motion to
Remand and Dismiss filed by Respondents Gregory Collett, the
District Director of the United States Citizenship and
Immigration Services (“USCIS”) Baltimore District
Office, and William Barr, the Attorney General of the United
States. ECF No. 16. No hearing is necessary. See
Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons,
Respondents’ Motion to Remand and Dismiss is granted.
Buhari is a native and citizen of Nigeria, ECF No. 1 ¶
7, and he has been a lawful permanent resident of the United
States since June 28, 2000, id. ¶ 8. He has
resided continuously in the United States since he obtained
lawful permanent resident status. Id. On or around
September 15, 2016, Mr. Buhari filed a naturalization
application with the USCIS bureau of the Department of
Homeland Security. Id. ¶ 9. He was interviewed
in the Baltimore District Office of USCIS on August 17, 2017,
and his application was recommended for approval.
Id. ¶ 10.
January 10, 2019, Mr. Buhari had not received a decision on
his application, so his attorney contacted the Baltimore
District Office’s assistant counsel and threatened to
sue the Office if it did not render a decision within forty
days. Id. ¶ 12. The Baltimore District Office
responded that same day and represented that “[US]CIS
intends to issue a decision within 45 days.”
Id. ¶ 14. USCIS has still not issued a decision
on Mr. Buhari’s naturalization application.
Id. ¶¶ 15–17.
15, 2019, Mr. Buhari filed a Complaint requesting that the
Court resolve his naturalization application pursuant to 8
U.S.C. § 1447(b). See Id . Respondents filed a
Motion to Remand and Dismiss on July 11, 2019. ECF No. 16.
Mr. Buhari filed a response on July 25, 2019, and Respondents
filed a reply on August 7, 2019.
begin the naturalization process, an applicant must first
file an application for naturalization with USCIS.
See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1445(a), (d). Following
the filing of an application, USCIS is required to conduct a
background investigation and examination of the applicant.
See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1446(a), (b); 8 C.F.R.
§§ 335.1, 335.2. Under normal circumstances,
following the completion of the background investigation and
the examination of the applicant, a USCIS official is
authorized to make a determination to grant or deny the
application. See 8 U.S.C. § 1446(d); 8 C.F.R.
§ 335.3. This determination is to be made within 120
days following the initial examination of the applicant.
determination is not made within 120 days of the initial
examination, an applicant may file for review of his
application with a district court, pursuant to 8 U.S.C.
§ 1447(b). Section 1447(b) provides, in pertinent part:
If there is a failure to make a determination under section
1446 of this title before the end of the 120-day period after
the date on which the examination is conducted under such
section, the applicant may apply to the United States
district court for the district in which the applicant
resides for a hearing on the matter. Such court has
jurisdiction over the matter and may either determine the
matter or remand the matter, with appropriate instructions,
to the Service to determine the matter.
8 U.S.C. § 1447(b) (emphasis added).
present case, there is no dispute that more than 120 days
have passed since Mr. Buhari was initially examined by an
USCIS official on August 17, 2017 – over two years ago.
See ECF No. 1-1 at 10. Instead, Respondents urge the
Court to remand the matter for adjudication by USCIS claiming
that USCIS is best equipped to make a determination about Mr.
Buhari’s eligibility for naturalization and is prepared
to adjudicate the application within thirty days of a court
order dismissing this case. See ECF No. 16
¶¶ 3, 6. In opposition, Mr. Buhari asserts that
USCIS has failed to justify its delay in processing his
application and an order to remand would inappropriately
condone USCIS’ inaction. See ECF No. 17 at
1–3. If the Court does choose to remand the case to
USCIS, Mr. Buhari asks the Court not to dismiss the case
itself and maintain supervision over the case until USCIS has
issued a decision on his application. See Id . at 3.
Court agrees with Respondents that USCIS “is in the
best position to adjudicate naturalization
applications.” Roberts v. Holder, No.
CCB–11–1941, 2012 WL 2563880, at *2 (D. Md. June
29, 2012); see also Zhao v. Chertoff, No.
C07-1725RSL, 2008 WL 191179, at *1 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 22, 2008)
(recognizing the expertise of USCIS and granting motion to
remand where, like in the instant case, USCIS indicated it
was prepared to adjudicate plaintiff’s naturalization
application in a timely manner); Manzoor v.
Chertoff, 472 F.Supp.2d 801, 808 (E.D. Va. 2007)
(“Just as the ‘name check’ and
‘fingerprint check’ are best left to the FBI, the
review of the results of the mandatory background checks and
any follow-up questioning of an applicant are best left to
[US]CIS.”); Khelifa v. Chertoff, 433 F.Supp.2d
836, 844 (E.D. Mich. 2006) (remanding case brought under
§ 1447(b) so that USCIS could exercise its expertise in
analyzing results of background investigations and making
naturalization determinations). The Court is also mindful of
the Supreme Court’s mandate that “[g]enerally
speaking, a court of appeals should remand a case to an
agency for decision of a matter that statutes place primarily
in agency hands. This principle has obvious importance in the
immigration context.” INS v. Ventura, 537 U.S.
12, 16–17 (2002). Indeed, “the vast majority of
courts that have exercised jurisdiction over a case pursuant
to § 1447(b) have remanded the matter back to [US]CIS
with appropriate instructions, rather than determine the
matter.” Manzoor, 472 F.Supp.2d at 810
(collecting cases). Accordingly, the Court will remand Mr.
Buhari’s case to USCIS pursuant to § 1447(b) with
specific instructions that it adjudicate Mr. Buhari’s
application within thirty days of the entry of the
Mr. Buhari asks the Court to maintain supervision over this
case to ensure that USCIS complies with its Order, “a
proper § 1447(b) petition vests the district court with
exclusive jurisdiction, unless and until the court
remands the matter to [US]CIS.” Etape v.
Chertoff, 497 F.3d 379, 383 (4th Cir. 2007) (internal
quotations omitted) (emphasis added). USCIS would therefore
be unable to adjudicate Mr. Buhari’s application ...