Campos v. I.N.S.

Decision Date16 October 1998
Docket NumberNo. 98-2231-CIV.,98-2231-CIV.
Citation70 F.Supp.2d 1296
PartiesAmparo CAMPOS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida

Jonnell Newman, Florida Justice Institute, Inc., Charles F. Elsesser, Jr., Florida Legal Services, Inc., Lisette Losada, Miami, FL, for Plaintiffs.

Dexter Lee, Office of U.S. Attorney, Miami, FL, Alice E. Loughran, Teresa A. Wallbaum, Linda Sue Werner, Office of Immigration Litigation, U.S. Dept of Justice, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

Elizabeth Lewis Bevington, Holland & Knight, Tampa, FL, for Amicus.


GOLD, District Judge.

The seven named plaintiffs in this lawsuit are poor, disabled, legal permanent residents who are attempting to become naturalized United States citizens. All but two of the plaintiffs have already been denied citizenship because their requests for medical waivers were refused and they failed to pass the English and civics requirements of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. section 1423. Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction with respect to those two plaintiffs who have not yet been denied citizenship, Josefina Lopez and Angela Rodriguez. The defendants have notified Lopez and Rodriguez that their applications for medical waiver have been denied and that they will be required to pass the English and civic requirements. Final naturalization examinations and interviews with Rodriguez and Lopez had been scheduled for September 25 and September 28, 1998, respectively. Due to a temporary restraining order entered by this court on September 22, 1998, those interviews were not held. Plaintiffs ask this court to enter a preliminary injunction precluding those two examinations and interviews from going forward until after this court has an opportunity to rule on the relief requested in the class action complaint which challenges the defendants' practices for evaluating medical waivers in naturalization proceedings. Plaintiffs contend that granting this injunctive relief for Rodriguez and Lopez would "preserve the status quo during the course of litigation in order to prevent irreparable injury to the moving party and in order to preserve the ability of the court to render complete relief." The court held a hearing on plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction at which time the parties submitted affidavits and other documentary evidence.


The Class Action Complaint. The plaintiffs seek injunctive, mandatory, and declaratory relief for a class of persons who are "poor, disabled legal permanent residents of the United States who have applied for and are eligible for naturalization but who are unable, due solely to a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment to learn basic English and the fundamentals of United States history and government (Civics) so as to pass the English and Civics portion of the naturalization exam."

Pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1423(b)(1), and implementing regulations and interpretations, Congress has provided for a "medical waiver" of the English and civics portion of the naturalization exam for persons who are ill or severely handicapped. According to the complaint, the defendants have "maintained a systematic and Miami District-wide policy of refusing to evaluate requests for medical waivers as required by statute and their own regulations and guidelines, of evaluating all applications for medical waivers in a standardless, totally arbitrary and idiosyncratically capricious manner and of refusing to inform the members of the plaintiff class of the bases for the denial of their requests or even the standards used to deny them." Consequently, the named plaintiffs, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, seek injunctive relief compelling the defendants to:

(a) evaluate all pending and future requests for medical waivers of the English and Civics portion of the naturalization examination as required by 8 U.S.C. § 1423(b)(1), 8 C.F.R. §§ 312.1 and 312.2, the implementing guidelines and such uniform standards as are hereafter developed;

(b) reevaluate all requests for medical waivers of the English and Civics portion of the naturalization examinations which have been denied at any time since March 19, 1997, pursuant to the requirements of 8 U.S.C. § 1423(b)(1), 8 C.F.R. §§ 312.1 and 312.2, the implementing guidelines and such uniform standards as are hereafter developed;

(c) develop standards for the evaluation of the sufficiency of requests for medical waivers of the English and Civics portion of the naturalization examinations which are consistent with 8 U.S.C. § 1423(b)(1), 8 C.F.R. §§ 312.1 and 312.2 and the implementing guidelines;

(d) publish in the Federal Register and make available to the public the standards utilized by the defendants, including such uniform standards as are hereafter developed, for the evaluation of the sufficiency of requests for medical waivers of the English and Civics portion of the naturalization examinations;

(e) provide notice of the reasons for the rejection of the medical waiver sufficient to allow the applicant to understand the bases for the rejection and, if possible, to correct them, to all applicants for naturalization whose requests for medical waivers of the English and Civics portion of the naturalization examinations have been rejected.

The Motion for Preliminary Injunction Pertaining to Rodriguez and Lopez. This case is presently before the court on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from proceeding with the naturalization examinations and interviews of Rodriguez and Lopez until after it has ruled on the matters raised in the class action complaint. Discovery has not yet commenced in this case and the matters raised in the class action complaint are not yet ripe for resolution. Thus the sole issue to be decided at this time is whether the plaintiffs have established the requisite elements for a preliminary injunction barring the INS from proceeding with the naturalization interviews scheduled for Rodriguez and Lopez until the court has decided the merits of the class action. In determining whether the plaintiffs are entitled to the requested injunctive relief, the court has reviewed and considered the affidavits submitted by, or on behalf of all of the named plaintiffs. For reasons of brevity, however, it has confined its factual statement to only those facts relating to the naturalization applications filed by Rodriguez and Lopez.

Angela Rodriguez. Rodriguez immigrated to this country from Cuba in 1992 and was granted permanent legal residency. She applied to become a U.S. citizen as soon as she completed the required five years of legal residency, in 1997. Rodriguez's physician, Dr. Miguel A. Mier, completed an application for medical waiver, an INS N-684 form, on the basis that Rodriguez has severe disabilities that make it impossible for her to learn the English language and pass a civics examination. Under penalty of perjury, Dr. Mier swore that Rodriguez has organic brain syndrome and arterial hypertension, which cause her to suffer memory loss, poor concentration and a decline in her mental functioning. Because organic brain syndrome and arterial hypertension are progressive ailments, Rodriguez's condition has grown worse since 1997.

At Rodriguez's June 1998 naturalization interview, she provided the INS N-648 form to the INS officer. On the form, Dr. Mier averred that he was a board-certified family practitioner specializing in geriatrics who had been treating Angela Rodriguez for approximately three years. Dr. Mier explained that Rodriguez was suffering from a combination of difficult ailments, including organic brain syndrome, which require her to be under constant supervision and render her unable to care for herself. After describing his patient's medical condition, Mier concluded that "[b]ased on the above, it is my professional Medical opinion, that Angela Rodriguez is unable to learn even basic English, let alone U.S. Civics of history, and that it is no fault of her own that she can not comprehend an examination to demonstrate basic knowledge of the English language."1 Additionally, Dr. Mier gave his medical license number and other required information, including his certification that the conditions described above are permanent and not caused by use of illegal drugs.

Despite all this information, at her June interview, the INS officer gave Rodriguez a form letter stating that defendants would not accept her N-648. Every possible reason for rejecting the N-648 was checked off on that form letter. Included among the listed deficiencies were: 1) "Identify the applicant on the medical certification," 2) "Identify the condition clearly and how it is related to her capacity to learn," and 3) "Establish your qualifications to make this medical certification." In fact, all this information had been provided by Dr. Mier on the N-648 form rejected by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The form letter instructed Rodriguez to present a properly prepared N-648 with the missing information to the defendants by August 5, 1998.

Neither Rodriguez nor her doctor was provided with specific information about the actual deficiencies or told what additional information was required by the INS. Nonetheless, Rodriguez returned to Dr. Mier, who completed another N-648 form which was submitted to the INS in July 1998. By letter dated August 25, 1998, the INS again declined Rodriguez's request for medical exception and advised her that she would be required to satisfy the English and Civics requirements of the INA. The defendants never attempted to contact Dr. Mier to answer questions about Rodriguez' condition, did not seek to...

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