U.S. Appeals Court Dismisses CNMI Casino Workers’ Lawsuit

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Case about denial of foreign worker permits to be refiled

By Ferdie De La Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 22, 2016) – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has dismissed the appeal filed by over 500 foreign current and former workers of Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino who sued U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and other federal officials over the denials of their CNMI-only Transitional Worker petitions, CW-1 visa permits.

The Ninth Circuit dismissed without prejudice the appeal after the parties jointly requested for such dismissal.

The Ninth Circuit allowed the plaintiffs to re-file a new and timely notice of appeal in the future.

The Ninth Circuit order did not indicate the reason why the parties agreed to dismiss the appeal.

In their appeal, the workers asked the Ninth Circuit to reverse the federal court’s ruling that granted defendants’ motion to dismiss their lawsuit for lack of jurisdiction.

Last Sept. 8, U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona denied the workers’ request to amend their lawsuit.

Manglona ruled that as stated in her prior decision and order, the plaintiffs (workers) may re-file their lawsuit once the administrative appeals of Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investments Ltd.’s petitions on their behalf are completed.

HKE owns Tinian Dynasty.

The workers sued DHS Secretary Johnson, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez, and USCIS California Service Center Director Kathy A. Baran over the USCIS’s denial of HKE’s 197 CNMI-only Transitional Worker (CW-1) petitions involving 693 beneficiaries.

Attorney Bruce Berline filed the lawsuit as counsel for Belal Hossain, Wenli Zhong, Pukar Patel, and 500 unknown co-plaintiffs.

Last May, Manglona dismissed the workers’ lawsuit.

Manglona ruled that the decision to deny HKE’s CW-1 visa petitions for their foreign workers is clearly not final and that the Administrative Appeals Office is currently in the process of reviewing it.

Manglona said because HKE’s petition denials are not final, the court lacks submit matter jurisdiction and must dismiss the case filed by the workers.

Manglona, however, ordered that plaintiffs (workers) are allowed to refile the lawsuit after the Administrative Appeals Office has issued its decision and the agency’s action is final.

The plaintiffs then filed a motion for leave to file first amended complaint.

In defendants’ reply to the motion, Department of Justice Office of Immigration Litigation trial attorney Sarah L. Vuong asserted that granting the workers’ request to amend their lawsuit over denials of their CW-1 visa petitions would be futile.

Vuong argued that plaintiffs’ amended complaint does not remedy the fatal flaws of their original complaint. The workers then appealed.

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