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Cassell v. Napolitano

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 31, 2014

Andrea CASSELL, and Rafik BOUGHADOU, Plaintiffs,
v.
Janet NAPOLITANO, Secretary of Homeland Security; Alejandro MAYORKAS, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ROBERT M. DOW, Jr., District Judge.

Plaintiffs Andrea Cassell and Rafik Boughadou married on August 18, 2004. About six weeks later, Cassell filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, on behalf of Boughadou, a citizen and national of Algeria, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS"). USCIS denied Cassell's petition on May 2, 2011, and the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA"), after a de novo review, affirmed USCIS's decision and dismissed the appeal on November 2, 2012. On December 7, 2012, Plaintiffs commenced this lawsuit, challenging the denial of Cassell's petition by the BIA and USCIS and seeking injunctive and declaratory relief under the Administrative Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 702-706.

Before the Court are Defendants' motion for summary judgment [17] and Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment [22]. Plaintiffs argue that the decisions of the BIA and USCIS were arbitrary and capricious, in violation of 5 U.S.C. § 706, and therefore should be vacated and reversed. Defendants argue that the challenged decisions should be upheld as reasonable and supported by substantial evidence. For the reasons stated below, the Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment [17] and denies Plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment [22].

I. Background

Andrea Cassell and Rafik Boughadou met waiting in line at a McDonald's in downtown Chicago in June 2004. ROP 192. After talking for two hours, they exchanged phone numbers and got married two months later on August 18, 2004 in a civil ceremony held before a judge in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. Id. Cassell is a United States citizen, (ROP 548), who, at the time, lived in Berwyn, Illinois with her mother, Nora Cassell, and her first-grade daughter. ROP 193. Boughadou is an Algerian national and citizen, who lawfully came to the United States as a visitor before changing his status to that of an international business student. ROP 192, 556-61. When Boughadou met Cassell, he had been living in a tiny studio apartment located at 444 West St. James Street, #811 Chicago, Illinois ("the St. James apartment") that he had been renting since February 2000 for $585/month. ROP 332. On June 11, 2004, Boughadou signed a new, one-year lease with a start date of October 1, 2004 and an end date of September 30, 2005, although the end date subsequently was amended to April 30, 2005. ROP 205-06, 259.

On September 30, 2004, Cassell filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with USCIS, seeking to classify Boughadou as an immediate relative based on their marriage, and Boughadou filed a Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, based on his marriage to Cassell. ROP 325-30. Cassell completed a Form G325A in conjunction with the I-130 Petition, on which she stated that she began living at the St. James apartment in August 2004. ROP 333. On December 15, 2004, Cassell and Boughadou were notified that they would be interviewed regarding Cassell's petition on April 20, 2005. ROP 35, 37. At or before their interview, the couple submitted a number of documents to USCIS in support of Cassell's petition, including:

• a lease, signed by both Cassell and Bougadou that designated them as tenants of the St. James apartment, beginning September 8, 2004 and ending April 30, 2005 (ROP 37)
• statements from Cassell and Boughadou's joint TCF bank account, opened on February 8, 2005, and copies of four checks from the account that were signed and cashed by Boughadou (ROP 37)
• an undated life insurance "illustration, " issued by Boughadou's friend, Stephanie Weidner, an American Express financial advisor (ROP 37)
• Automobile insurance policy information in the name of Boughadou, addressed to both Cassell and Boughadou at the St. James apartment (ROP 128)
• Boughadou and Cassell's "married filed jointly" 2004 income tax return, which also demonstrated that Boughadou's underlying W-2 listed Boughadou's address as the St. James apartment, while Cassell's W-2s listed two separate Berwyn, Illinois addresses (ROP 37)
• a receipt letter from the Social Security Administration, demonstrating that Cassell applied for a new social security card, dated September 8, 2004, that listed Cassell's address as Berwyn, Illinois (ROP 37, 190)
• a marriage certificate, dated August 18, 2004 (ROP 128)
• copies of three electric bills, addressed to both Boughadou and Cassell at the St. James apartment, but for accounts listed only in Boughadou's name, dated January 5, February 9, and March 9, 2005 (ROP 128)
• two phone bills addressed to both Cassell and Boughadou (ROP 128
• photographs of the couple and Cassell's daughter, developed two days before the first interview (ROP 190)
• four greetings cards: a Christmas card from Stephanie Weidner to the couple, a November 10, 2004 birthday card from Cassell to Boughadou, an undated card from Boughadou to Cassell that read "Andrea, I just wanted to say I love you, " and a Christmas Card from Cassell to Rafik addressed "to my husband" (ROP 129)

During the first interview, Cassell stated that she did not have a home phone, which contradicted the phone bills that she submitted. ROP 190. And the documents she provided that listed her Berwyn address did not square with the lease for the St. James apartment that listed her as a tenant. Id. Outside of the joint bank account, the interviewer found no evidence of co-mingled finances or shared financial responsibility. Id. Because the first interviewer suspected that the couple's marriage may not be bona fide, he referred the petition for further review by USCIS. ROP 190. A subsequent investigation uncovered additional documentation that suggested that Cassell did not reside at the St. James apartment with Boughadou. Namely, USCIS obtained arrest records from the Chicago Police department that listed a Berwyn, Illinois address for Cassell when she was arrested on September 8, 2004. ROP 39. Police records also indicated that on January 7, 2005, Cassell filed a complaint against her daughter's father, Albert Sanchez, which also listed a Berwyn, Illinois address. ROP 66. Cassell was arrested again on February 11, 2005 by the Chicago Police Department, this time for endangering the life and health of a child, and the arrest records again listed a Berwyn, Illinois address for Cassell. Finally, USCIS contacted the landlord at the St. James apartment, who informed USCIS that Cassell was not technically listed as a tenant of the unit because, although she signed the lease on September 8, 2004, she refused the prerequisite credit check, which invalidated the lease she had signed. ROP 37, 118, 129. The investigation also uncovered that Boughadou purchased a condo on South State Street ("the South State Street condo") on April 19, 2005, the day before the first interview. ROP 190. Based on these discoveries, USCIS scheduled the couple for a second interview. Id.

On August 6, 2009, a second USCIS officer interviewed Cassell. At the second interview, Cassell revealed that she and Boughadou separated in either late April or early May 2005, a few weeks after their first interview, and had not lived together since. ROP 323, 331. She also disclosed that since the first interview she had given birth to two children (in 2007 and 2009), fathered by a man named Jonathan Gonzalez, with whom Cassell was then living. ROP 38. Finally, Cassell told USCIS that she did not move in with Boughadou for two or three months after they were married, a statement that contradicted the G-325A application that she completed on August 24, 2004, where she stated that she began living with Boughadou at the St. James apartment in August 2004. ROP 38, 333. At or prior to this interview, Cassell also provided the following additional documents to USCIS:

• cell phone bills addressed to "Rafik Boughadou, Attn: Andrea M. Boughadou, " dated between February 22, 2007 and January 22, 2009 (ROP 129)
• letters from Ameriprise Financial addressed to Cassell and Beneficiary, dated July 31, 2008 and ...

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