On February 27, 2004, plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, challenging the policies and procedures used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to adjudicate applications for naturalization. Plaintiffs alleged that the agency failed to apply the correct standard for determining whether applicants have "good moral character" and failed to adjudicate applications within 120 days as prescribed by law. Plaintiffs asserted claims under § 310(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c); the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201; and the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief. Attorneys with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, as well as private counsel, represent the plaintiff class.
Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction and class certification. The District Court (Judge Robert S. Lasnik) denied class certification on November 24, 2004. A second motion for class certification was granted in part on November 13, 2005.
During the course of the litigation, the District Court entered several stipulated orders, granting judicial naturalization to some of the named petitioners.
On August 10, 2005 the parties entered into a Settlement Agreement. After notice to class members and a fairness hearing, the Agreement was approved by the District Court (Judge Lasnik) on February 16, 2006.
Under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agreed to change its process for deciding "good moral character" issues in applications for naturalization. The agency also agreed to reopen denial of naturalization applications of class members whose applications were denied on good moral character grounds. The parties stipulated that the class consisted of:
All persons who have applied or will apply for naturalization in the jurisdiction of the Seattle District Office, and who have been or may be denied on or after May 4, 1998 on the basis of a lack of good moral character, excepting those who have been subsequently naturalized or those who are statutorily barred from naturalization.
On August 17, 2007, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the terms of the settlement agreement. On January 2, 2008, the Court found that motion to be mostly moot, but ordered the defendants to process the application of one of the members of the plaintiff class. Lee v. Gonzales
, No. 04-cv-00449, 2008 WL 53175 (W.D. Wash. Jan. 2, 2008). On April 3, 2008, the plaintiffs again filed a motion for enforcement, which the court partially granted on May 19, 2008. The Court ordered the defendants to complete their review of thirty-three applications within thirty days of the order. Lee v. Mukasey
, No. 04-cv-00449, 2008 WL 2117064, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122359 (W.D. Wash. May 19, 2008). When the defendants, in a filing styled as a status report, requested additional time to process the remaining applications, the Court (Judge Lasnik) issued a third order regarding enforcement, requiring the defendants to provide detailed information regarding any delays in processing and to make updates on its progress every two months until all class members' applications were adjudicated.
The defendants continued to process applications, submitting six bimonthly status reports to the Court, and on June 8, 2009, the Court (Judge Lasnik) issued its fourth and final order on enforcement, finding that all but three applications had been processed, and ordering the defendants to continue submitting status reports on these applications. On July 1, 2009, the defendants filed their final status report, informing the Court that the last three class members with pending applications had been naturalized.
On September 24, 2009, the Court partially granted a motion by plaintiffs for attorney's fees, awarding them with $58,897.50 for work done prior to the defendants' final status report on July 1. Lee v. Holder
, No. 04-cv-00449, 2009 WL 3064794, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 92404 (W.D. Wash. Sept. 24, 2009).Christopher Schad - 07/02/2012