The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Petitioner pro se Aston R. McLeary ("McLeary" or "Petitioner") has instituted the above-captioned proceedings in District Court. At the time he filed the petitions, he was an alien under a final order of removal based upon his conviction of an offense qualifying as an "aggravated felony" for purposes of the INA, and he was in custody of Department of Homeland Security/Immigrations and Customs Enforcement ("DHS/ICE"). Accordingly, the petitions were deemed to be brought under the authority of 28 U.S.C. § 2241. However, the petitions did not seek McLeary's release from custody of DHS/ICE. Instead, they challenged the denial of his application for naturalization by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS").
In the first petition filed February 9, 2011, McLeary v. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, No. 11-CV-6075(DGL)(MWP) (W.D.N.Y.) ("11-CV-6075"), Petitioner seeks relief under 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b) which permits an individual who has filed a naturalization application, has been the subject of a completed "examination" pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1446, and who has not timely received a determination on his application, to "apply to the United States district court for the district in which the applicant resides for a hearing on the matter." 8 U.S.C. § 1447(b).
In the second proceeding filed June 1, 2011, McLeary v. (INS) Currently DHS office of U.S.C.I.S., No. 11-CV-6275(DGL)(MWP) (W.D.N.Y.) ("11-CV-6275"), Petitioner seeks the same relief--judicial review of his denied N-400 application for naturalization. Both cases have been transferred to the undersigned.
II. Factual Background and Procedural History*fn1
Petitioner is a native and citizen of Jamaica and a lawful permanent resident of the United States. He was admitted to this country at New York, New York, on or about April 26, 1963. (Respondent's Exhibit ("Resp't Ex.") 1, Declaration of Michele Morris, ¶4 ("Morris Decl."); Resp't Ex. 1-F at 3.
On April 5, 2006, McLeary was convicted in Schenectady County Court, in Schenectady, New York, for burglary in the third degree (N.Y. Penal Law § 140.20), a class D nonviolent felony. McLeary was sentenced to a term of incarceration of one year, and served 245 days in prison. Morris Decl., ¶14; Resp't Ex. 1-D at 1-2.
On August 21, 2008, McLeary was placed in removal proceedings and charged with being subject to removal from the United States as an alien who has been convicted of a controlled substance offense; as an alien who has been convicted of an aggravated felony, relating to a theft offense or burglary; and as an alien who has been convicted of two crimes involving moral turpitude. Morris Decl., ¶15.
On March 18, 2009, an immigration judge ("IJ") ordered McLeary removed from the United States to either England or Jamaica pursuant to INA § 237(a)(2)(A)(iii), 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), because of his conviction in 2006 which constituted a "removable aggravated felony" as defined under INA § 101(a)(43)(G), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G). Morris Decl., ¶16, Resp't Ex. 1-A. In addition, the IJ determined that McLeary did not meet his burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that he was either a citizen or a national of the United States. McLeary could not obtain derivative citizenship from his father, who had naturalized after he had attained eighteen years of age. McLeary's service and registration in the United States military, alone, was insufficient to convey nationality. Resp't Ex. 1-G at 10-11.
McLeary appealed his removability before the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") and filed a motion to reopen. On June 29, 2009, the BIA dismissed his appeal and denied his motion to reopen. Morris Decl., ¶¶ 16-17; Resp't Ex. 1-G at 1-6. While his petition for review was pending in the Second Circuit, see Section
II.D, infra, McLeary filed a motion to reconsider and motion for stay of removal with the BIA, which was denied on August 13, 2009. The motion to reconsider was denied on November 20, 2009. Resp't Ex. 3 at 1-3. McLeary also filed a motion to reconsider with the BIA which was denied on July 14, 2010. Resp't Ex. 3 at 4-5. He then filed a motion to reopen proceedings with the BIA, which was denied on October 5, 2010. Id. at 6-7.
E. Petitioner's Application for Naturalization
McLeary filed an N-400 application for naturalization on April 19, 2010, with USCIS, on the basis of qualifying military service. Morris Decl., ¶18; Resp't Ex. 1-A. at 3. Although McLeary passed the English, history, and government tests, his application was denied on September 29, 2010, on six separate grounds. See Morris Decl., ¶18; Resp't Ex. 1-A.
First, McLeary was not eligible pursuant to INA § 329, 8 U.S.C. § 1440, which allows for the naturalization of qualified military personnel, because he was discharged from the United States Air Force "Under Other Than Honorable Conditions." Morris Decl., ¶18; Resp't Exs. 1-A at 2-3, 1-E at 2,8. Second, USCIS found him ineligible to naturalize under INA § 316(a) since his 2006 conviction for burglary in the third degree, an aggravated felony under INA § 101(a)(43)(G), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(G), permanently precludes him from establishing good moral character for naturalization purposes. Morris Decl., ¶18; Resp't Ex. 1-A at 6.
Third, USCIS found that under 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(b)(2)(i), this same burglary constituted a crime involving moral turpitude, other than a purely political offense, during the statutory period, and therefore precluded McLeary him from naturalizing.
Fourth, because McLeary was confined to a penal institution for more than 180 days for the third degree burglary conviction during the relevant statutory period, he was ineligible to naturalize pursuant to 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(b)(2)(v).
Fifth, USCIS found that McLeary was unable to prove good moral character as required by INA § 316(a)(3), 8 U.S.C. § 1427(a)(3), since he had been arrested "at least 18 times and convicted of multiple criminal offenses" such as burglary, third degree assault, second degree harassment, second degree criminal use of drug paraphernalia, second degree criminal impersonation, and second degree aggravated unlicensed use of a motor vehicle.*fn2 This conduct was found by USCIS to preclude a determination of "good moral character." See 8 C.F.R. § 316.10(a)(2). See Resp't Exs. 1-B at 3, 1-A at 6. Sixth, USCIS determined that because McLeary had an outstanding final order of removal against him, and since he was not otherwise eligible under INA § 329, 8 U.S.C. § 1440 , a statute that relaxes the ...