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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Feds Need not Bend for Foreign Horse Trainer

WASHINGTON (CN) - An allegedly gifted horse trainer whose employer improperly designated his field as the arts instead of athletics does not qualify for immigration relief, a federal judge ruled.

The 19-page decision gives little detail on the alien employee in question, except that Mott Thoroughbred Stables cannot keep him as assistant horse trainer without approval of its petition for nonimmigrant status by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Mott had successfully filed so-called O-1 petitions to confer the employee with temporary nonimmigrant status in 2010 and 2012 based on his "extraordinary ability" in the arts.

When Mott petitioned to extend the employee's status in November 2013, however, USCIS sought more information and then denied the petition on March 6, 2014.

The agency shot down its appeal, and U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton agreed last week that Mott does not deserve injunctive relief.

Though Mott had slammed the agency for supposedly failing to "clearly articulate" its decision, Walton said the agency need not show deference to its earlier decisions after deciding that the previous approvals were the result of a material error.

USCIS believes that Mott failed to demonstrate how thoroughbred horseracing qualifies as a creative activity or endeavor as defined by the agency's arts category.

Walton noted that the standard of finding an agency's ruling to be arbitrary and capricious is very narrow, and the court has no reason to step in unless the agency's decision is "plainly erroneous or inconsistent with regulation."

Since the granting of a preliminary injunction furthermore requires extraordinary circumstances, Walton said that the party requesting the injunction must prove that it faces irreparable harm, that the other party would not be substantially injured, and that an injunction favors the public interest.

In support of those factors, Mott cited the risk of a serious loss of earnings and the risk of harm to its reputation and standing in the highly competitive horseracing industry.

D.C. Circuit precedent has "resoundingly rejected" the notion, however, that economic loss constitutes irreparable harm, Walton said.

A plaintiff can satisfy that threshold only by showing that the potential economic loss would threaten the existence of its business, according to the ruling.

As Mott boasted that it had more than $10 million of race winnings in 2013, Walton found it unlikely that the loss of the trainer in question would end Mott's business.

A loss of reputation is even less likely, as Mott was in business for 32 years before it hired the beneficiary, and it presumably built a strong reputation in those decades without employing the beneficiary trainer, the court found.

Thus, the speculative potential harm Mott offered is not enough to warrant the extreme remedy of an injunction, Walton said.

Mott's petition for a preliminary injunction also falls short in the public interest category, Walton wrote, because the USCIS was not arbitrary or capricious in its decision, and Mott did not properly demonstrate that its trainer has extraordinary ability in the arts.

"More importantly, a preliminary injunction would not advance the public interest because it would condone the plaintiff's attempt to fit the proverbial round peg into the square hole," Walton wrote.

Mott should have and could have sought its trainer's temporary nonimmigrant status as someone with extraordinary talent in athletics, according to the ruling.

An O-1 petition in the area of athletics has a higher standard than a petition for the arts, and Mott cannot circumvent that bar by filing the wrong petition, the court found.

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