from the United States District Court for the Middle District
of Florida D.C. Docket No. 6:14-cv-00516-GKS-GJK
TJOFLAT, HULL, and O'MALLEY, [*] Circuit Judges.
Loubna Elkaoussi Mendoza appeals the district court's
order granting summary judgment to the defendants. Mendoza
filed a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, seeking an
immigrant visa for her alien father, Hassan Elkaoussi. The
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
("CIS") denied Mendoza's petition, and Mendoza
filed this federal action seeking review of CIS's
decision. On appeal, Mendoza contends that CIS's decision
is unsupported by substantial evidence, is arbitrary and
capricious, and is otherwise not in accordance with law.
After review of the record and the parties' briefs, and
with the benefit of oral argument, we affirm.
was born in Morocco in 1986 and became a naturalized United
States citizen in 2009. At the time of her birth,
Mendoza's father, Elkaoussi, was married to Mendoza's
biological mother, Hafida Serrar. Elkaoussi and Serrar
divorced in 2002.
Smith's 2004 Petition on Behalf of Elkaoussi
January 12, 2004, Elkaoussi married Joyce Smith, a United
States citizen. Smith was
previously married to Said Aldi Hussein, but that marriage
ended in 2003.
one month after marrying Elkaoussi, Smith filed an I-130
petition seeking an immigrant visa for Elkaoussi based on his
status as her spouse. Smith and Elkaoussi submitted evidence
supporting the bona fides of their marriage, including a
letter from Smith's father stating that Smith and
Elkaoussi lived together in his home, pictures of Smith and
Elkaoussi together, joint bank statements, joint car
insurance documents, other bills, and affidavits from
acquaintances who could attest to the nature of Smith and
28, 2006, Smith and Elkaoussi appeared for an interview with
CIS regarding the 2004 petition. In October 2007, while the
2004 petition was still pending, Smith and Elkaoussi
divorced. On May 6, 2010, because of that 2007 divorce, CIS
denied Smith's 2004 petition.
Mendoza's 2009 and 2012 Petitions on Behalf of
December 20, 2009, after Smith and Elkaoussi's divorce
but before CIS denied Smith's 2004 petition, Mendoza
filed an I-130 petition on behalf of Elkaoussi based on his
status as her father. CIS denied that petition because
Mendoza and Elkaoussi failed to appear for an interview.
March 19, 2012, Mendoza filed another I-130 petition on
behalf of Elkaoussi. On February 19, 2013, CIS requested
evidence regarding Mendoza's paternal relationship with
Elkaoussi. Mendoza responded by submitting her birth
certificate and a marriage certificate documenting the
marriage between Elkaoussi and Mendoza's mother.
April 8, 2014, Mendoza and Elkaoussi appeared for an
interview with CIS, during which a CIS officer separately
asked each of them about Elkaoussi's marriage to Smith.
The CIS officer asked Mendoza if she knew Elkaoussi's
whereabouts in 2006, whether Mendoza ever met Smith, and who
lived with Elkaoussi from 2006 to 2012. On the advice of
counsel, Mendoza chose not to answer these questions.
officer also asked Elkaoussi why he divorced Smith. On the
advice of counsel, Elkaoussi chose not to answer this
2, 2014, CIS sent Mendoza a notice of intent to deny the 2012
petition (the "NOID"). The NOID explained that
federal immigration law prohibits granting an immigrant visa
to anyone who previously sought a visa on the basis of a
fraudulent marriage and that CIS doubted the validity of
Elkaoussi's previous marriage to Smith. In the NOID, CIS
identified several issues with the evidence that Smith
submitted in conjunction with her 2004 petition: (1) the
letter from Smith's father, which stated that Smith and
Elkaoussi lived together in his residence, was unsigned; (2)
the bank statements listed Smith and Elkaoussi's address
as a P.O. Box rather than a residential address; and (3) the
affidavits from Smith and Elkaoussi's acquaintances
included no details about when and where the affiants ...