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Kweicien v. Medina-Maltes

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

October 20, 2016

MARTHA MEDINA-MALTES, et al. Defendants.


          HON. RONALD A. GUZMÁN United States District Judge.

         The Court grants Defendants' motion for summary judgment [24]. Civil case terminated.


         This case concerns plaintiff Celestina Kweicien's challenge to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service's (“USCIS”) denial of her petition to have her husband, Gediminas Jukna (“Jukna”), admitted as a lawful permanent resident by virtue of their marriage.[1]

         I. Statutory and Regulatory Framework

         A United States citizen who seeks lawful permanent resident status for a spouse/foreign national must file a petition (Form I-130) with USCIS. 8 U.S.C. § 1154(a)(1)(A)(i); 8 C.F.R. § 204.1(a)(1). Form I-130 provides USCIS with an opportunity to investigate the claimed marriage, and, if granted, establishes a “formal relationship” between the petitioner and the beneficiary. Akram v. Holder, 721 F.3d 853, 83 (7th Cir. 2013). That relationship, in turn, qualifies the beneficiary as eligible for certain immigration visas as an “immediate relative” of a United States citizen. Id. USCIS may not, however, consider the alien's (separate) application to “adjust status” until it first recognizes the validity of the underlying marriage. 8 U.S.C. §§ 1125, 1151(b)(2)(A)(i), 1154.

         In that respect, USCIS is categorically barred from recognizing a marriage under certain circumstances, such as marriage fraud:

[N]o petition shall be approved if (1) the alien has previously been accorded, or has sought to be accorded, an immediate relative or preference status as the spouse of a citizen of the United States or the spouse of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, by reason of a marriage determined by the Attorney General to have been entered into for the purpose of evading the immigration laws, or (2) the Attorney General has determined that the alien has attempted or conspired to enter into a marriage for the purpose of evading the immigration laws.

8 U.S.C. § 1154(c). The authority to decide issues of marriage fraud in this context has been delegated to USCIS for initial review, see 8.C.F.R. § 100.1, and to the Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”), which generally issues the final agency decision, see 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(d)(7).

         II. Background[2]

         (A) Jukna and His Marriages

         Jukna is a Lithuanian native and citizen. (Defs.' Facts [Dkt. # 36] ¶¶ 1-2.) He entered the United States in 2001 on a B1/B2 visitor visa and married Samantha Crawford (“Ms. Crawford”) on February 1, 2005. (Id.) This would be the first of his three marriages in the United States.

         Three weeks after they married, Ms. Crawford filed an I-130 petition with USCIS, seeking to classify Jukna as an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. (Id. ¶ 4.) But Jukna and Ms. Crawford failed to appear for the scheduled hearing/interview with USCIS (set for September 28, 2005), and they divorced within the next year, on July 28, 2006. (Id. ¶¶ 5-6.) Accordingly, on October 25, 2010, USCIS denied Ms. Crawford's I-130 petition, finding that the marriage had dissolved on July 28, 2006 and that there was insufficient evidence to support her claim of a bona fide relationship between her and Jukna. (Id. ¶ 7.)[3]

         Jukna met his second wife, Andrea Jimenez (“Ms. Jimenez”), two months later at a New Year's party, in December 2010. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) They married on May 15, 2011, and were divorced by April 19, 2012. (Id. ¶¶ 8-10.) The judgment of dissolution of marriage indicates that Jukna and Ms. Jimenez began living separately in June 2011, just one month after they became husband and wife. (Id.) Ten days prior to divorcing Ms. Jimenez, however, Jukna was placed into removal proceedings. (Id. ¶ 11.)

         Jukna married his third wife (Plaintiff) on July 18, 2012, shortly after the removal proceedings were initiated. (Id. ¶ 12.) Like Ms. Crawford, Plaintiff filed an I-130 petition on Jukna's behalf. (Id. ¶ 13.) In support of the petition, she filed a number of Jukna's tax returns, medical bills, and a copy of a lease. (Id. ¶ 14.) With the exception of the tax returns from 2005-2012, the documents provided evidence of Jukna's relationship with Plaintiff, but they did not establish his relationship with his prior wives (beyond marriage certificates and divorce judgments). (Id.)

         (B) USCIS's Interview and Investigation

         Jukna's interview was held on July 23, 2013. (Id. ¶ 15.) There, Jukna provided details about his arrival into the United States in 2001, his employment history, and places he had lived. (Id. ¶ 16.) He was unable to remember the exact date of his marriage to his first wife (Ms. Crawford), but claimed they married in 2004. (Id. ¶ 17.) (They actually married in 2005, id.) He did, however, recall that she worked at a hospital in some capacity, although he was unable to describe her duties. (Id. ¶ 18.) When asked about Ms. Crawford's family, Jukna asserted that her parents' names were Michelle and John. (Id. ¶ 19.) (Ms. Crawford's father's actual name is Tony, id. ¶ 20.)

         In terms of his life with Ms. Crawford, Jukna was unable to recall what bills the two shared during their marriage. (Id. ¶ 21.) He also stated that Ms. Crawford had only one child from a previous relationship. (Id. ¶ 22.) Yet, when he was confronted with information that she had a second child in February 2006 - conceived during the duration of their marriage - Jukna stated that Ms. Crawford had drinking problems and that they were not sleeping together at the time. (Id. ¶ 23.)

         Regarding his first I-130 petition and the missed USCIS interview, Jukna explained that he and Ms. Crawford did not appear because they were already separated. (Id. ¶ 26.) That I-130 petition, moreover, stated that Jukna and Ms. Crawford lived together in Lemont, Illinois for about 4-5 months after marrying (from February 2005 through June or July 2005), whereas on April 1, 2005, Ms. Crawford filed a police report (for an unrelated incident) that listed her address as 1616 N. Poplar Avenue, Round Lake, Illinois (Id. ¶¶ 36-39.) This latter address was also reported as the residence of Douglass Whitt, Jr. (“Mr. Whitt”), who is listed as the father of Ms. Crawford's second child on the birth certificate. (Id.)

         Turning to questions about his own family, Jukna stated that they were non-immigrant visa “overstays” and that his mother and sister were placed in removal proceedings because they did not pass the interview. (Id. ¶ 27-28.) He further noted that his mother had married another United States citizen, John Garcia (“Mr. Garcia”). (Id. ¶ 29.) Mr. Garcia, however, previously informed USCIS of some significant details: he stated in 2005 that his marriage to Jukna's mother was fraudulent and that they married only to “help her stay in America” and because she paid him. (Id. ¶ 40.) He further claimed that Ms. Crawford's marriage to Jukna was similarly fraudulent. (Id.)

         Lastly, concerning Jukna's second wife, Ms. Jimenez, Jukna wavered on when exactly they were married, initially stating that he married her on May 5, 2010 but later claiming that they married in 2011. (Id. ΒΆ 30.) Jukna further noted that Ms. Jimenez did not move in with him; she was ...

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