Singh v. Quarantillo

Decision Date05 April 2000
Docket NumberNo. CIVA994480DRD.,No. CIVA993414DRD.,CIVA993414DRD.,CIVA994480DRD.
Citation92 F.Supp.2d 386
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
PartiesBalwinder SINGH, Petitioner, v. Andrea QUARANTILLO, District Director, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Respondent. Balwinder Singh, Petitioner, v. Andrea Quarantillo, As District Director, Immigration & Naturalization Service, Respondent.

Winston W. Fraser, Newark, NJ, Stanley H. Wallenstein, of Counsel, Pro Hac Vice, New York City, for Petitioner.

Robert J. Cleary, United States Attorney, By James B. Clark, III, Esq., Assistant United States Attorney, Newark, NJ, for Respondent.

OPINION

DEBEVOISE, Senior District Judge.

Petitioner, Balwinder Singh, an alien in custody pursuant to an order of deportation, filed a petition and a supplemental petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution and laws of the United States.1 The Immigration and Naturalization Service ("INS") responded, asserting that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the case and, in any event, the petition lacks merit. The court has held hearings, at which additional facts were presented and arguments made.

The court has jurisdiction over this proceeding. By failing to timely process both a visa petition which petitioner's wife filed and petitioner's application for adjustment of immigration status, by denying petitioner's motion to reopen on erroneous legal grounds, and by failing to apply appropriate tolling to petitioner's voluntary departure date, the INS has deprived petitioner of a statutorily created right to a hearing to determine if his marriage was bona fide and to determine whether he is entitled to adjustment of his immigration status. Petitioner is being illegally detained. The writ will issue.

A. The Factual and Procedural Background

Petitioner is a 24 year old native and citizen of India. He entered the United States without inspection on June 21, 1994. On July 19, 1995 deportation proceedings were commenced against him.

Petitioner applied for political asylum. Hearings were held before an Immigration Judge ("IJ") on the order to show cause for deportation and on the asylum application on November 1, 1995, December 6, 1995 and February 5, 1996. On February 5, 1996 the IJ issued an order denying asylum and withholding of deportation. He issued an alternate order of deportation, granting petitioner thirty days voluntary departure, stating in his oral opinion:

I must also tell the respondent that if he fails to comply with my order, for a period of five years he will be ineligible for a certain type of relief and among those are additional periods of voluntary departure, adjustment of status under Section 244, 245 and 249 or any changes of nonimmigrant classifications under Section 248. And, finally, I must tell him that the only excuse for not complying with my decision is what the Act characterizes as exceptional circumstances which refer mostly to his own grave illness or the death of an immediate relative in his family.

Petitioner appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA"). This resulted in an automatic stay of the IJ's order, and the voluntary departure time was tolled.

On October 2, 1997, while the appeal was pending petitioner married eighteen year old Elena Espinosa, a United States citizen. On November 7, 1997 Espinosa filed an I-130 visa petition on petitioner's behalf, and on the same date petitioner filed an application for adjustment of his immigration status based upon future approval of the I-130 visa petition. The adjustment he sought was from the status of a deportable alien who was granted voluntary departure to the status of a lawful permanent resident.

On June 11, 1998 the BIA dismissed petitioner's appeal from the IJ's order denying asylum and withholding of deportation, holding that the IJ correctly concluded that petitioner had not established his eligibility for either form of relief. The BIA further ordered that "[petitioner] is permitted to depart from the United States voluntarily within 30 days from this order ____ and in the event of a failure to so depart, [petitioner] shall be deported as provided in the Immigration Judge's order."

On August 3, 1998, pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 3.2(c)(1), petitioner filed with the BIA a motion to reopen his deportation proceedings based upon his wife's November 7, 1997 I-130 visa petition and his application of the same date for adjustment of his immigration status. According to petitioner, under the applicable regulation "the adjustment application and the motion it supported were to be held in abeyance while the visa petition was being adjudicated." (Petitioner's Reply Memorandum at pp. 7, 8.) On January 13, 1999 the BIA denied the motion, stating "[t]he respondent has failed to demonstrate that he has an immigrant visa immediately available to him, since he has not provided a notice of approval for the visa petition allegedly filed for him by his United States citizen spouse. See 8 C.F.R. § 3.2(c)(1) (1998); see also Matter of Coelho, 20 I & N Dec. 464 (BIA 1992)." Petitioner's spouse had filed the I-130 visa petition on November 7, 1997, in conjunction with petitioner's petition for adjustment of status. Neither had been acted upon when petitioner filed his motion to reopen nor when the BIA denied the motion.

The effect of the legal principle upon which the BIA relied, i.e. automatic denial of a motion to reopen if the INS had not approved a visa petition, is to make the applicant's statutory right to a change of status based on marriage to a United States citizen wholly contingent upon prompt INS action upon the visa petition. Here the visa petition was filed in November 1997, two years before the hearings in this action. At those hearings the attorney for the government candidly admitted that because of its heavy case load it was impossible to predict when the INS would act upon the visa petition. This is remarkably casual treatment of a right which Congress has conferred.

In any event it appears that petitioner and his counsel did not receive notice of the January 13, 1999 decision until long after the time for appeal to the Court of Appeals had expired. The next communication from the INS that petitioner received was an April 27, 1999 letter directing him to surrender on May 27. On May 25 petitioner moved before the BIA to reconsider its order of January 13, 1999 and for a stay of deportation proceedings during the pendency of the motion to reconsider. He did not receive a ruling on his application for a stay.

Earlier in the deportation proceedings, after failure of petitioner to voluntarily depart within thirty days following the BIA's June 11, 1998 dismissal of his appeal from the IJ's denial of his asylum application, the INS obtained a warrant of deportation issued on July 10, 1998 requiring that petitioner be taken into custody. This warrant was executed when petitioner was taken into custody on July 7, 1999.

The petition and supplemental petition for habeas relief were filed on July 21, 1999 and September 21, 1999, respectively. Petitioner challenges both the January 13, 1999 decision of the BIA and the warrant for deportation.

To facilitate an understanding of the discussion that follows, a chronological summary of the pertinent events is set forth at this point.

                  June 21, 1994  — Petitioner entered United States
                                   without inspection
                  July 27, 1995  — INS placed petitioner in deportation
                                   proceedings
                                   Petitioner applied for asylum
                  Feb. 5, 1996   — IJ issued order denying asylum and
                                   denying withholding deportation
                                   He issued alternative order of deportation
                                   granting 30 days voluntary
                                   departure
                  Feb. 13, 1996  — Petitioner appealed to BIA.
                  Oct. 2, 1997   — Petitioner married Elena Espinosa.
                  Nov. 7, 1997   — Elena filed an I-130 visa petition
                                   with INS.
                  Nov. 7, 1997   — Petitioner filed application for adjustment
                                   of immigration status
                                   based on anticipated approval of I-130
                                   petition.
                  June 11, 1998  — BIA dismissed petitioner's appeal
                                   from IJ decision of Feb. 5, 1996.
                  July 11, 1998  — Petitioner filed motion to reopen
                                   with BIA.
                  Jan. 13, 1999  — BIA denied motion to reopen on
                                   ground that it was not accompanied
                                   by a notice of approval of visa petition.
                  April 27, 1999 — Notice directed petitioner to surrender
                                   to INS custody on May 27.
                  May 25, 1999   — Petitioner moved BIA to reconsider
                                   order of Jan. 13, 1999.
                                   Petitioner applied by mail for stay
                                   during period of Reconsideration.
                  May 27, 1999   — INS notified petitioner it would rule
                                   on stay application on or before May
                                   28, 1999.
                  July 7, 1999   — INS arrested petitioner.
                  July 21, 1999  — Petitioner's original petition was
                                   filed.
                  Sept. 21, 1999 — Petitioner's supplemental petition
                                   was filed.
                
B. Petitioner's Grounds for Relief

Petitioner asserts that the court has habeas corpus jurisdiction under principles set forth in Sandoval v. Reno, 166 F.3d 225 (3d Cir.1999) and applied in Velasquez v. Reno, 37 F.Supp.2d 663 (D.N.J.1999).

In his original petition petitioner challenged the BIA's January 13, 1999 denial of his motion to reopen. He asserted that approval of the visa petition was not required and that the BIA's denial of his motion on the ground that such approval had not been obtained was error. Visa numbers are always available under the "immediate relative" classification pursuant to which the visa petition was filed in petitioner's case. According to petitioner the regulations required that his application for adjustment of status, filed...

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3 cases
  • Bailey v. Immigration & Naturalization Service, Civil No. 01CV2285 (JBS) (D. N.J. 6/24/2002)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • 24 Junio 2002
    ...under § 2241 while in I.N.S. custody prior to deportation); Lara v. Trominski, 216 F.3d 487 (5th Cir. 2000) (same); Singh v. Quarantillo, 92 F. Supp. 2d 386 (D.N.J. 2000) Thus, Mr. Bailey's § 2241 petition must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction without prejudice to his ri......
  • Rivera v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc., Civil No. 02-4160(JBS) (D. N.J. 3/3/2003)
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  • Milosevic v. Ridge
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    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania
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    ...and sought adjustment of status from there. In Tuadles v. INS, 83 Fed.Appx. 874 (9th Cir.2003)(nonprecedential), and Singh v. Quarantillo, 92 F.Supp.2d 386 (D.N.J.2000), the courts did not enforce the statutory bar on adjustment of status when an immigrant failed to depart by the departure ......

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