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Madrid v. Robinson

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Lynchburg Division

October 31, 2016

Rosa Morales Madrid, Plaintiff,
v.
Richard Robinson, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORMAN K. MOON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1183a, Plaintiff brought suit to enforce the terms of an Affidavit of Support executed by Defendant on her behalf. Defendant has filed two motions to dismiss. First, Defendant argues that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because an action to enforce an Affidavit of Support is simply a contract suit under state law and does not arise under federal law.[1] Second, Defendant asserts that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim because she has not attached an executed copy of the Affidavit of Support to her complaint.

         Courts have split over whether an action to enforce an Affidavit of Support arises under 8 U.S.C. § 1183a. However, the best reading of the statute is that it creates a federal cause of action, granting this court jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Defendant's second argument lacks merit. He cites no authority for the proposition that failure to attach the executed Affidavit prevents a party from suing to enforce it, and the complaint easily meets the Twombly/Iqbal standard for stating a claim. Therefore, both motions will be denied.

         I. Facts as Alleged

         The parties were married in Argentina in 2007 and have two daughters together, born in 2011 and 2012. (Dkt. 2 at 1-2). To enable Plaintiff to immigrate to the United States and achieve lawful permanent resident status without conditions, Defendant executed an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1183a. (Id. at 1). Under the terms of the Affidavit, Defendant promised to maintain Plaintiff's household at an income level exceeding 125% of the poverty level. (Id. at 2).

         In 2015, a friend of Defendant exposed himself to one of the young daughters. (Id.) Defendant, however, refused to remedy the situation by preventing further contact with the friend. (Id.) Defendant's refusal initiated the dissolution of the marriage, as Plaintiff filed for custody of the children soon after. (Id.) Defendant then abandoned the marital home, and Plaintiff was ultimately granted custody of their children. (Id.) On July 27, 2016, Plaintiff filed for divorce. (Id.) Plaintiff now alleges that Defendant has failed to comply with the terms of the Affidavit because he has not maintained her household at 125% of the poverty level.

         II. Discussion

         a. Legal Background

         Certain classes of immigrants are not admitted to the United States as permanent residents if they are likely to become a public charge. See 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4). However, a current United States resident may sponsor an immigrant for permanent residency by executing an Affidavit of Support, created by filling out Form I-864. The Affidavit creates an enforceable contract wherein the sponsor (current United States resident) promises to financially support the sponsored alien (immigrant seeking residency) at 125% of the poverty level. See 8 U.S.C. § 1183a.[2] Either the United States or the sponsored alien may bring suit to enforce the Affidavit of Support against the sponsor. See 8 U.S.C. 1183a(e).

         b. Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

         i. Legal Standard

         Challenges to the subject matter jurisdiction of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) are either facial or factual. A facial challenge is one which argues that “the complaint simply fails to allege facts upon which subject matter jurisdiction can be based.” Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982). A factual challenge is one in which it is “contended that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint were not true.” Id. For facial challenges, “all the facts alleged in the complaint are assumed to be true and the plaintiff, in effect, is afforded the same procedural protection as he would receive under a Rule 12(b)(6) consideration.” Id.

         Here, the challenge is facial. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's only avenue for subject matter jurisdiction is under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, but that her cause of action sounds in state contract law and does not arise under the laws of the United States. There are no disputed facts; the only question is whether an action to enforce an Affidavit of Support is one that arises under federal law. Therefore, the challenge is facial and the normal Rule 12(b)(6) standard will apply.[3]

         ii. Analysis 1. Re ...


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