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Benalfew v. United States Citizen and Immigration Services

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

June 19, 2019

LILI BENALFEW, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          F. DENNIS SAYLOR IV UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is the fourth action plaintiff Lili Benalfew has brought concerning her naturalization as a United States citizen. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. Because plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of claim preclusion and violate an order issued in an earlier case by Judge Gorton, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The facts are taken from the complaint, materials submitted with the motion papers, and prior court opinions.

         Plaintiff Lili Benalfew appears to have arrived in the United States on January 27, 1974. (Compl. ¶ 8). On March 16, 2000, she filed an N-400 application for citizenship. (Id. ¶ 10). In addition to her application, Benalfew appears to have sent a letter to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (“INS”) requesting that she be allowed to take a modified oath of allegiance due to her “belief” against war. (Id. at 7). On April 13, 2001, the INS sent Benalfew a letter denying her application for naturalization because she had “fail[ed] to demonstrate [a] willingness to assume and discharge the obligations of the oath of allegiance.” (Id. at 19). She requested review of the denial. It appears that a review hearing was conducted on October 25, 2001. (Compl. ¶ 37). The INS denied her appeal. (Id.; Benalfew v. United States, et al., No. 13-cv-12049-NMG). On January 3, 2002, the INS notified her to “appear for a Naturalization Oath Ceremony” on January 17, 2002. (Compl. ¶ 38; Pl. Ex. A at 29).

         Benalfew contends that she attended the naturalization ceremony and took a modified oath of allegiance that omitted the duty to bear arms and perform noncombatant services. (Compl. ¶ 39; Mem. & Order at 4, 9, Benalfew v. United States, et al., No. 13-cv-12049-NMG; Pl. Ex. A at 31).[1]

         B. Procedural History

         This is the fourth action Benalfew has brought contending she has been harmed in some manner by the modified oath she took at her naturalization ceremony.

         Benalfew filed her first action on July 10, 2009. See Benalfew v. United States, et al., 09-cv- 11189-DPW. The complaint in that case alleged, essentially, that because she had taken a modified oath, she could not hold herself out to be a United States citizen. The complaint sought to revoke her naturalization certificate and sought injunctive relief and damages for emotional distress and lost professional opportunities allegedly caused by her lack of citizenship.

         On February 22, 2010, Judge Woodlock dismissed the lawsuit sua sponte. Essentially, Judge Woodlock held that to the extent the complaint attempted to raise a claim for denaturalization pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1451, the court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction, as the United States Attorney had not instituted revocation proceedings against her. In addition, Judge Woodlock held that the United States and the USCIS were immune from the claims seeking monetary damages.

         On July 14, 2011, Benalfew filed a second complaint raising essentially the same claims. See Benalfew v. USCIS, No. 11-cv-11238-NMG. On October 28, 2011, Judge Gorton dismissed the action.

         Benalfew filed a third complaint on August 21, 2013. See Benalfew v. United States, et al., No. 13-cv-12049-NMG. The complaint raised almost entirely the same allegations as the earlier complaints, with several new allegations concerning her name change in 2013.

         On November 22, 2013, Judge Gorton sua sponte dismissed the third complaint in its entirety for essentially the same reasons Judge Woodlock had in 2010. In concluding his opinion, Judge Gorton ordered that Benalfew be restricted from “filing any further Complaints that relate directly or indirectly to the claims asserted in her three unsuccessful cases, unless she [was] able to show that she ha[d] ...


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