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Case Name City of Seattle v. Department of Homeland Security IM-CA-0151
Docket / Court 3:19-cv-07151 ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Immigration and/or the Border
Attorney Organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice / AAJC
Case Summary
This case challenged a policy of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that made it more difficult for naturalization applicants to obtain fee waivers

The City of Seattle and several nonprofit organizations filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District ... read more >
This case challenged a policy of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that made it more difficult for naturalization applicants to obtain fee waivers

The City of Seattle and several nonprofit organizations filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco) on October 29, 2019. They challenged new fee waiver policies issued by USCIS. The City--along with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Self-Help For The Elderly, OneAmerica, and Central American Resource Center of California--sued the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and USCIS under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Represented by private counsel, Protect Democracy, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, the plaintiffs alleged that the new policies, which made it harder for naturalization applicants to qualify for fee waivers, violated the APA and federal law. Plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as attorney's fees and costs. The case was assigned to Judge Maxine M. Chesney.

Under rules in place since 2010, applicants for naturalization are able to obtain fee waivers for the $725 processing fee under certain circumstances. On October 24, 2019, USCIS announced changes to the fee waiver process (“the 2019 Rule”). Under the 2019 Rule, applicants could no longer obtain a fee waiver based on receipt of a means-tested benefit; applicants must secure a tax transcript from the Internal Revenue Service to prove their income (whereas before they only needed to submit copies of tax returns), and applicants are no longer able to use applicant-generated written requests for fee waivers. Plaintiffs argued that the 2019 Rule would effectively block many low-income lawful permanent residents from applying for naturalization. Therefore, the rule was arbitrary and capricious, USCIS had violated the APA by issuing the Rule absent notice-and-comment procedures, and the elimination of applicant-generated requests violated 8 C.F.R. § 103.7(c)(2) which did not require individuals to use a form to submit a fee waiver request.

Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on November 6, 2019. The new complaint added claims related to the appointment of defendant Kenneth Cuccinelli as the Acting Director of USCIS. First, the plaintiffs alleged that Cuccinelli’s appointment violated the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. Second, they argued that because of Cuccinelli’s unlawful appointment, the 2019 Rule violated the APA because it was not issued in accordance with law.

Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction on November 6, 2019. The Court issued a nationwide injunction of the 2019 Rule on December 11, 2019. They reasoned that plaintiffs were likely to succeed on the merits of their APA claims.

The court ordered this case held in abeyance on February 10, 2020. This order would hold pending the completion of proposed rulemaking changes by USCIS. According to the most recent status report filed on May 14, 2021, the case remains stayed to "allow for further regulatory development."

This case is ongoing.

Sam Kulhanek - 02/06/2020
Eric Gripp - 08/12/2021


compress summary

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Immigration/Border
U.S. citizenship - acquiring
Visas - procedures
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Non-profit religious organization
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description The City of Seattle, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., Self-Help For The Elderly, OneAmerica, and Central American Resource Center of California.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Asian Americans Advancing Justice / AAJC
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2019 - n/a
Filed 10/29/2019
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  City of Seattle v. DHS
Protect Democracy
Date: December 12, 2019
By: Protect Democracy
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D. Cal.
05/14/2021
3:19-cv-7151
IM-CA-0151-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
N.D. Cal.
10/29/2019
Complaint [ECF# 1]
IM-CA-0151-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
11/06/2019
Amended Complaint [ECF# 24]
IM-CA-0151-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Cal.
12/11/2019
Order Granting Plaintiffs' Motion for Nationwide Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 65]
IM-CA-0151-0003.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Chesney, Maxine M. (N.D. Cal.) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0003 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Benkato, Jamila Goldkamp (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Berwick, Benjamin Leon (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-9000
Etcubanez, Marita (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002
Franklin, Erica Ruth (Washington) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Goldman, Lauren R (New York) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Goodman, Rachel E.. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-9000
Holmes, Peter S. (Washington) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002
Ingber, Matthew D (New York) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Marsden, Jessica Ann (North Carolina) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
McDevitt, Maura K. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Mitchell, Luc W. M. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Patel, Niketa K. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Rodriguez, Nicolas E. (New York) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Rubin, Lee H (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Shah, Niyati (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-0001 | IM-CA-0151-0002 | IM-CA-0151-9000
Williams, Brittany (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Harris, Julie Straus (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-9000
Roberts, Charles E.T. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-9000
Other Lawyers Gaw, Randolph (California) show/hide docs
IM-CA-0151-9000

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