United States District Court, S.D. New York
OPINION AND ORDER
KATHERINE POLK FAILLA, District Judge.
Pro se Plaintiff Ramon Antonio Castro-Ramirez, a native and citizen of the Dominican Republic, seeks review of an April 2013 final decision of Defendant United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") denying his application to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Defendant has moved to dismiss, or alternatively for summary judgment, on the grounds that Plaintiff is barred from becoming a naturalized citizen as a result of his prior criminal conviction. For the reasons discussed in the remainder of this Opinion, Defendant's motion to dismiss is converted to one for summary judgment, and is granted.
A. Factual Background
Plaintiff is a native and citizen of the Dominican Republic, and was admitted into the United States as a Permanent Resident on or about February 12, 1967. (Def. 56.1 ¶¶ 1-2). On April 26, 1983, Plaintiff was arrested in Yonkers, New York, and charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree; the controlled substance was cocaine. ( Id. at ¶¶ 3-4). Plaintiff pleaded guilty to criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree on December 22, 1983, and was scheduled to be sentenced on January 19, 1984. ( Id. at ¶¶ 4-5). When Plaintiff failed to appear for that sentencing, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest. ( Id. at ¶ 6).
Plaintiff was arrested on or about May 22, 1996, on the January 19, 1984 bench warrant. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 7). On September 5, 1996, Plaintiff was sentenced in the Supreme Court of New York, Westchester County, to a term of one to three years' imprisonment. ( Id. at ¶ 8). On September 5, 1996, a written judgment was entered against Plaintiff, reflecting his conviction for criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, in violation of New York Penal Law § 220.39. ( Id. at ¶ 9). Plaintiff was incarcerated from approximately September 19, 1996, to September 5, 1997. (Feb. 19 Opp. 2-3).
As a result of his 1996 conviction, Plaintiff was found to be deportable under Section 241(a)(2)(A)(iii) and (B)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA"), 8 U.S.C. § 1251(a)(2)(A)(iii), (B)(i). (Def. 56.1 ¶ 10). However, on or about March 17, 2003, Plaintiff was granted a waiver of inadmissibility under Section 212(c) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(c), by an Immigration Judge. ( Id. at ¶ 11).
Plaintiff filed an application for naturalization on April 3, 2012. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 12). USCIS issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application on December 1, 2012, on the grounds that his felony conviction precluded a finding of good moral character, as required for naturalization. ( Id. at ¶ 13; Buchanan Decl. Ex. I). Plaintiff appealed that decision on December 19, 2012. (Def. 56.1 ¶ 14). On April 23, 2013, USCIS reaffirmed its decision to deny Plaintiff's naturalization application. ( Id. at ¶ 15).
B. Procedural History
Plaintiff initiated the instant action on August 22, 2013, seeking additional review of USCIS's decision to deny his naturalization application. (Dkt. #1). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that he is not precluded from establishing "good moral character" because his criminal conviction does not constitute an aggravated felony. (Pet. 1-2).
On December 11, 2013, Defendant filed a pre-motion letter, seeking leave to move to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. #8). Pursuant to the briefing schedule set forth at the January 10, 2014 pre-motion conference (Dkt. #10), Defendant's motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment, was filed on February 10, 2014 (Dkt. #11). Plaintiff's opposition titled "Incarceration Time" was filed on February 19, 2014 (Dkt. #16), and Plaintiff's opposition titled "Judicial Notice Following: Federal Rule of Evidence 201(f)" was filed on March 11, 2014 (Dkt. #17). The motion was fully submitted as of the filing of Defendant's reply on April 11, 2014. (Dkt. #18). The Court will now consider Defendant's motion.
A. The Standard of Review
1. Conversion of a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to a ...