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Singh v. Board of Immigration Appeals

United States District Court, S.D. New York

February 23, 2017



          P. Kevin Castel United States District Judge.

         Federal immigration law permits a United States citizen to file a petition for permanent resident status on behalf an alien spouse. The petitioner must show that the couple intended to establish a life together at the time they entered into marriage. If immigration authorities find that the marriage was a sham intended to evade the immigration laws, the alien spouse is thereafter barred from receiving a marriage-based adjustment to immigration status.

         Plaintiff Sukhwinder Singh brings this action pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701, et seq. Her husband, Balbir Singh, previously was married to a woman named Doris McWilliams, whom he met and married in July 1984, within one month of his arrival to the United States. In 1987, immigration authorities concluded that Singh and McWilliams entered into a sham marriage, and denied a petition that McWilliams filed on Balbir Singh's behalf. McWilliams and Balbir Singh divorced in 1991. In 1992, Balbir Singh married plaintiff Sukhwinder Singh. Since that time, Sukhwinder Singh has filed petitions to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) for an adjustment to Balbir Singh's immigration status. Based on the earlier finding that Balbir Singh's marriage to McWilliams was a fraudulent attempt to evade the immigration laws, those petitions have been denied.

         Plaintiff Sukhwinder Singh seeks to vacate and remand a decision of the USCIS, subsequently affirmed by the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), that denied a petition for lawful permanent resident status that she filed on behalf of Balbir Singh. The BIA and USCIS have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Fed. R. Civ. P., and plaintiff Sukhwinder Singh has filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. There are no disputed issues of fact.

         Because the decisions of the USCIS and the BIA were not arbitrary and capricious, and were supported by substantial evidence, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted and the plaintiff's motion is denied.


         For the purposes of the parties' respective motions, the following facts are undisputed.[1]

         A. The INS's Conclusion that Balbir Singh's Marriage to Doris McWilliams Was a Sham Marriage.

         In July 1984, Balbir Singh, a native and citizen of India, arrived to the United States and, within a month, married Doris McWilliams, a United States citizen. (Record 253, 483.) The Court will refer to Balbir Singh as “Singh, ” Doris McWilliams by her maiden name “McWilliams, ” and plaintiff Sukhwinder Singh by her first name, “Sukhwinder.”

         On August 8, 1984, McWilliams filed a “Petition to Classify Status of Alien Relative for Issuance of Immigrant Visa” under Form I-130 issued by what was then called the Immigration and Naturalization Service (the “INS”). (Id. 541.) The petition identified Singh as McWilliams's husband and the beneficiary of the petition. (Id.) The petition annexed McWilliams's birth certificate; a marriage certificate of Singh and McWilliams dated July 31, 1984; a photograph of Singh and McWilliams locked in an embrace; and individual headshots of Singh and McWilliams. (Id. 543-48.) While adjudication of the 1984 petition was pending, McWilliams filed renewed petitions on January 17, 1986 (id. 524) and July 24, 1986 (id. 481), and annexed additional materials, including copies of leases for an apartment in Brighton Beach; a realtor's note addressed to both Singh and McWilliams; employment-related materials for McWilliams and Singh; correspondence that the IRS and a telephone provider sent to McWilliams at the Brighton Beach address; and documents related to Singh including copies of his passport, birth certificate, an affidavit from his father, and a “character certificate” issued by police in India. (Id. 489, 492-93, 491, 484, 487, 502, 511, 526, 546, 490, 508-09, 495-500, 504-07.)

         On July 2, 1987, an INS officer interviewed Singh and McWilliams, an 88-page transcript of which is included in the record. (Id. 376-463.) Some of the answers provided by Singh and McWilliams included inconsistent details. Singh stated that he and McWilliams met on a beach at the end of July 1984, decided to marry the next day, and were married two or three days later, whereas McWilliams stated that they met on a beach in early July and married at the end of the month. (Id. 422-28, 384-86, 453-54.) They gave conflicting answers concerning certain details of the wedding. McWilliams stated that she and a friend named Barbara, whose last name she could not recall, took a subway to the Borough Hall station in Brooklyn, where they met Singh, and that after the ceremony, she, Barbara and Singh went out to eat. (Record 391-92.) Singh stated that he met Barbara and McWilliams on Court Street in Brooklyn, and that after the wedding ceremony, their meal included a fourth person, Anthony Robinson. (Id. 432-38.)

         When asked about members of Singh's family, McWilliams stated that Singh's father “just passed away, February.” (Id. 390.) But Singh testified that his father had died in December 1985 with the news reaching him in February 1986, a year earlier than McWilliams testified. (Id. 455-56.)

         Concerning McWilliams's employment, Singh stated that McWilliams worked at a post office from July 1985 to September 1985. (Id. 401-02, 446.) McWilliams stated that she also worked as a file clerk from March 1985 to July 1985, and Singh stated that she had stayed home while they lived off her savings and borrowed money. (Id. 402-03, 447-49, 457-58.)

         Following the interview, the INS further investigated the marriage of Singh and McWilliams. A July 15, 1987 memo written by the interviewer stated that “[m]any answers agreed, possibly the result of prior rehearsal. However, the profile of the case, the account of their meeting and marriage, and the discrepancies in answers to some basic questions make their relationship questionable.” (Id. 364.) The memo noted the above-summarized inconsistencies in the interview, and recommended that “an investigation [be] conducted into the bona fides of this marriage so that final adjudication of the petition may be made as soon as possible . . . .” (Id. 365.)

         On July 29, 1987, an INS investigator interviewed Frank Robinson, superintendent of a building located at 521 West 151st Street in Manhattan. (Id. 357, 361.) Robinson stated that he was the father of Anthony Robinson, and that his son had lived for at least three years in apartment 33 with McWilliams, whom he described as Anthony Robinson's common-law wife. (Id. 357, 361.) Robinson identified a picture of McWilliams, and stated that he was unfamiliar with Singh, or with McWilliams's relationship with Singh. (Id. 361.) The investigator then spoke to Cassandra Littlejohn, who resided across the hall of Anthony Robinson and had lived at the apartment for approximately five years. (Id. 360.) She confirmed that Frank Robinson was the father of Anthony Robinson, identified McWilliams by ...

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