University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name De Dandrade v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security IM-NY-0073
Docket / Court 1:17-cv-09604-PKC ( S.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Immigration and/or the Border
Attorney Organization Bronx Defenders
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
On December 7, 2017, nine lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who were denied disability waivers as part of their naturalized citizenship applications and two organizations that assist LPRs who are seeking to become citizens filed this suit in the United States District Court for the Southern ... read more >
On December 7, 2017, nine lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who were denied disability waivers as part of their naturalized citizenship applications and two organizations that assist LPRs who are seeking to become citizens filed this suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, represented by the Bronx Defenders and Bronx Legal Services, sued the United States Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), and directors of those agencies, challenging the defendants' process for adjudicating medical disability waiver requests during the citizen naturalization process. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants' practices violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”), the Rehabilitation Act, the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), and the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by failing to operate a system that fairly implements the INA’s mandate that disabled applicants be granted waivers of the requirement that applicants for naturalization pass an English, history, and civics test. The plaintiffs sought declaratory relief and injunctive relief to ensure that the defendants fairly implement the INA's mandate. The case was assigned to Judge P. Kevin Castel and Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox.

LPRs applying for naturalization are ordinarily required to pass an English, history, and citizenship test. However, because the individual plaintiffs suffered from disabilities--such as Alzheimer’s disease, intellectual disability, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Major Depression--that made learning new information difficult, they applied for waivers that would exempt them from taking this test. The plaintiffs alleged that despite doctors attesting to the plaintiffs' disabilities and their inability to learn new information, defendants denied their waiver applications. Specifically, the plaintiffs asserted that the defendants denied these waiver applications based on inappropriate considerations, refused to explain the basis for denials of waivers, "subjected applicants to humiliation and emotional stress by requiring them to take the English and civics tests when they know applicants cannot pass, and failed to provide opportunities to challenge denials of waiver requests."

The immigration advocacy organization plaintiffs, who provide services to LPRs undergoing the naturalization process, alleged that their clients "who seek waivers of the test experience the same pattern of denials of meritorious requests, lack of notice, and failures to accommodate that the individual plaintiffs experienced," causing them to devote additional resources.

On April 20, 2018, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction or for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The defendants contended that the plaintiff organizations did not have standing and that the statutory and constitutional claims brought by the plaintiffs were not sufficient.

By February 2019, all but two of the individual plaintiffs had their waivers approved as part of their naturalization applications.

On February 10, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO), preliminary injunction, and leave to amend their complaint. The Clearinghouse does not have access to the motion to discern to the plaintiffs' arguments. After holding oral argument before the court on February 12, 2019, Judge Castel denied the plaintiffs' motion for the time being and ordered the defendants to file an opposition to the motion.

On the same day, Judge Castel issued an opinion and order granting the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Judge Castel concluded that the plaintiff organizations had established standing, based on the diversion of resources required to provide services, but held that they did not have “zone of interest” standing. Judge Castel further held that the availability of judicial review of denials of individual naturalization applications under the INA precluded the plaintiffs' "statutory and constitutional claims alleging a pattern and practice of misadjudications of waiver requests." Furthermore, Judge Castel found that the plaintiffs did not have an APA claim because they were not seeking review of a final agency decision and because they had "another 'adequate remedy' through the review process explicitly granted by the INA." Lastly, Judge Castel held that the plaintiffs' constitutional claims failed because they should have brought those claims through the avenues provided by the INA and that the Rehabilitation Act did not provide a private cause of action. 367 F.Supp.3d 174. Following the order to dismiss, Judge Castel issued a final judgment in favor of the defendants on April 3, 2019.

On April 12, 2019, the plaintiffs filed an appeal of the district court's order granting the motion to dismiss to the Second Circuit (Docket No. 19-1002). In their initial appellate brief, the organizational plaintiffs argued that they did fall within the "zone of interests" of the INA and the Due Process Clause, that their claims were not precluded "by the existence of an avenue for appeal of denial of individual naturalization applications," and that they adequately stated a cause of action under the APA and the Rehabilitation Act. On December 6, 2019, a Second Circuit panel (Circuit Judges Dennis Jacobs, Susan L. Carney, and Michael H. Park) heard oral argument on the appeal.

As of March 13, 2020, the plaintiffs' appeal of the district court's motion to dismiss is pending resolution in the Second Circuit.

Aaron Gurley - 03/13/2020

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Due Process: Procedural Due Process
disability, unspecified
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Constitutional rights
U.S. citizenship - acquiring
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Non-profit NON-religious organization
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §§ 1101 et seq.
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
United States Department of Homeland Security
Plaintiff Description Two immigrant advocacy organizations and nine disabled legal permanent residents seeking citizenship.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Bronx Defenders
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filed 12/07/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
1:17-cv-09604 (S.D.N.Y.)
IM-NY-0073-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/22/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion and Order [ECF# 72] (367 F.Supp.3d 174) (S.D.N.Y.)
IM-NY-0073-0001.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/15/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Castel, P. Kevin (S.D.N.Y.) show/hide docs
IM-NY-0073-0001 | IM-NY-0073-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Annobil, Jojo (New York) show/hide docs
Baumetz, Jason (Alaska) show/hide docs
Clarke, Christine (New York) show/hide docs
Coleman, Jeffrey David (New York) show/hide docs
Ellsworth, Felicia H. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Lamb, Christopher D. (New York) show/hide docs
Lawson, Theresa Dawn (New York) show/hide docs
McKinnon, Shannon Suzanne (New York) show/hide docs
Naderi, Paloma (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Nana, Chavi Keeney (New York) show/hide docs
Noyes, Christopher Ronald (New York) show/hide docs
Yurkerwich, Kevin M. (Massachusetts) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Reddy, Kirti Vaidya (New York) show/hide docs
Sun, Anthony Jan-Huan (New York) show/hide docs

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