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Al-Saadoon v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 14, 2016

Orwa Ali Al-Saadoon; Farok Abdulmajid Hamod, Petitioners - Appellants
v.
Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States of America; Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security; Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services; Sharon V. Dooley, Field Office Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Respondents - Appellees

Submitted October 22, 2015.

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis.

For Orwa Ali Al-Saadoon, Farok Abdulmajid Hamod, Petitioners - Appellants: Herbert Igbanugo, Igbanugo Partners, Minneapolis, MN.

For Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States of America, Appellee: Christopher Westley Dempsey, Senior Litigation Counsel, Anna Nelson, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC.

For Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Secuirty, Alejandro Mayorkas, Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Sharon V. Dooley, Field Office Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Respondents - Appellees: Christopher Westley Dempsey, Senior Litigation Counsel, Anna Nelson, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Office of Immigration Litigation, Washington, DC.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, SMITH and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SMITH, Circuit Judge.

Farok Abdulmajid Hamod and his wife, Orwa Ali Al-Saadoon, appeal the district court's[1] denial of their petitions for naturalization. They came to this country on a religious-worker visa in 1999 when Hamod accepted a position at the Al-Amal School in Minnesota. Hamod's visa prohibited him from changing employers without prior authorization from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). In August 2000, the Islamic Cultural Community Center (ICCC), a different legal entity, filed a petition seeking authorization to employ Hamod; the petition was granted in December 2000. But the information that Hamod provided on his naturalization application reveals that he began working for the ICCC on July 15, 2000, before the ICCC had filed the petition for authorization. On this basis, the district court denied Hamod's and Al-Saadoon's petitions for naturalization. We affirm.

I. Background

Hamod and Al-Saadoon are natives of Iraq. They entered this country in June 1999 when the Al-Amal School in Minnesota invited Hamod to serve as a teacher. Hamod entered on a religious-worker visa that permitted him to work only for the religious organization sponsoring his entry into the country, the Al-Amal School.

As a respected sheikh and Islamic scholar, Hamod grew increasingly involved in the local Muslim community at the ICCC. His activities included leading prayer services, giving lectures, counseling, conducting marriage ceremonies, and holding seminars. On August 2, 2000, the ICCC filed an I-360 Petition for Special Immigrant Religious Worker on Hamod's behalf, seeking to permanently employ him as an Imam. The Al-Amal School supported the petition, confirming that it had " initially employed [Hamod] as a religious teacher in June 1999 pursuant to an R-1 visa" and that " [h]e later became the Religious Curriculum Director at the school." The INS granted the ICCC's petition on December 8, 2000. In 2002, Hamod and Al-Saadoon adjusted to permanent-residence status.

In 2007, Hamod and Al-Saadoon sought naturalization. The naturalization application included the following query, " Where have you worked . . . during the last five years?" Below the question, the application provided blanks for " Employer or School Name," " Dates," and " Your Occupation." Hamod filled in " Islamic Cultural Community Center," " 07-15-2000" to the " present," and " president and Imam." He signed the application, certifying its accuracy under penalty of perjury. The ICCC supported Hamod's application with a letter certifying that " Dr. Farok Hamod is working for The Islamic Cultural Community Center as president and Imam for this organization since 2000 until now." In a sworn interview connected with his application, Hamod said that he had been working for the ICCC " [s]ince 2000." The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) denied Hamod's and Al-Saadoon's applications for naturalization, concluding that they lacked good moral character.

Hamod and Al-Saadoon then administratively appealed the denial of their applications. In a sworn interview related to his appeal, Hamod testified that he began working for the ICCC in 2000. Later he said that he began working for the Al-Amal School in 1999 and was employed there for " less than a year" before he started working for the ICCC. He agreed that the Al-Amal School and the ICCC are separate entities. The USCIS affirmed the denial of Hamod's and Al-Saadoon's petitions for naturalization. Hamod and Al-Saadoon then filed this action in the district court, seeking de novo review of the denial of their petitions pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c).

In preparation for the district court's review, Hamod gave sworn testimony at a pretrial deposition. During this deposition, he stated that he had no reason to doubt his former testimony that he had been employed by the ICCC since 2000. He also testified that he was working for the ICCC as an Imam in April 2000. After a hearing, the court concluded that Hamod had not lawfully been admitted to permanent residence status because he accepted employment from the ICCC " starting at least in early to mid-2000," before he was authorized to do so. The court therefore concluded that he was not eligible for naturalization. The court also denied Al-Saadoon's petition for naturalization because her ...


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