United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge
Sonethanong has brought suit against Rex Tillerson, the
United States Secretary of State, and Elaine Duke, the Acting
United States Secretary of Homeland Security (collectively,
the "Government"), seeking a declaration that he is
a citizen of the United States, as well as damages, fees, and
costs, ECF No. 1. The Government has moved to dismiss (ECF
No. 8), which Mr. Khongsouvankham opposes (ECF No. 14). For
the following reasons, the Government's motion is
Khongsouvankham was born on January 6, 1978. It is unclear
whether he was born in Thailand or Laos; in any event, it is
undisputed that he was born outside of the United States to
married non-citizens. Mr. Khongsouvankham entered the United
States with his mother, father, and family on January 28,
1981, as refugees of the Vietnam War. Mr. Khongsouvankham was
just three years old at the time. He and his family became
permanent residents upon entry.
19, 1989, Mr. Khongsouvankham's mother naturalized as a
United States citizen. Mr. Khongsouvankham was eleven years
old. On November 4, 1996, Mr. Khongsouvankham's father
naturalized as a United States citizen. Mr. Khongsouvankham
was eighteen years old. Mr. Khongsouvankham has never been
recognized as a United States citizen.
January of 2012, Mr. Khongsouvankham was sentenced for crimes
involving drugs, firearms, and forgery. See United States
v. Khongsouvankham, No. 11-042 (D.R.I. Jan. 26, 2012).
He is currently incarcerated.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a complaint must be
dismissed if the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. The
plaintiff bears the burden of proving that subject-matter
jurisdiction exists. Aversa v. United States, 99
F.3d 1200, 1209 (1st Cir. 1996).
Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must be dismissed where it fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Court
accepts factual allegations as true, but disregards legal
conclusions couched as facts. Bell Atl Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555(2007).
Khongsouvankham's Complaint brings five counts against
the Government. For the following reasons, the Court must
dismiss each of them, A. Count One: Declaratory Relief The
first count in the Complaint seeks declaratory relief under
28 U.S.C, § 2201(a). Section 2201 provides for the
declaratory judgment remedy; however, it does not
independently confer jurisdiction on federal courts.
Skelly Oil Co. v. Phillips Petroleum Co., 339 U.S.
667, 671 (1950). Thus, the invocation of section 2201 is not
enough to confer jurisdiction on federal courts; some
independent source is required. See Id. at 672;
see also Colonial Penn Grp., Inc. v. Colonial Deposit
Co., 834 F.2d 229, 232 (1st Cir. 1987) ("Federal
jurisdiction does not lie simply because relief is requested
under the federal Declaratory Judgment Act.").
most logical source of jurisdiction here is 8 U.S.C. §
1503(a), which governs proceedings for a declaration of
United States nationality. See Correia v. Dulles,
129 F.Supp. 533, 533 (D.R.L 1954). An action under section
1503(a) "may be instituted only within five years after
the final administrative denial of such right or
privilege." 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a). Here, Mr.
Khongsouvankham admits that he "never sought
[administrative remedies] in the first place, " ECF No.
14 at 7. Because Mr. Khongsouvankham has not exhausted his
administrative remedies, the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear
Count One. Accordingly, it must be dismissed.
Count Two: Injunctive Relief
Two asks this Court to "enjoin Defendants from
withholding federal citizenship documentation from
Plaintiff." ECF No. 1 at 7. Mr. Khongsouvankham appears
to claim that he automatically derived citizenship under 8
U.S.C. §§ 1431(a) or 1432(a) via the naturalization
of his parents, As an initial matter, it is questionable
whether either section 143l(a) or 1432(a) provides a private
right of action. Statutes must expressly or impliedly create
a cause of action, " "the fact that a federal
statute has been violated and some person harmed does not
automatically give rise to a private cause of action."
Cannon v. Univ. of Chi,441 U.S. 677, 688 (1979).
Here, there is no express private right of action in either
provision, and given courts' reluctance to infer private
rights of action in other immigration provisions, it is ...