United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
EVELYN A. SANTANA, f/k/a EVELYN A. HATCH, D.P.C.S., N.R.C.S, J.A.C.S., Plaintiffs,
BILLY R. HATCH, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY District Judge.
In this civil action brought under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1183a, plaintiffs Evelyn A. Santana, D.P.C.S., N.R.C.S. and J.A.C.S. contend that defendant Billy R. Hatch has violated his obligation to support them at 125% of the federal poverty level. Plaintiffs have filed a motion for summary judgment on liability, damages and her request for specific performance and attorney fees. (Dkt. #10.) In response, defendant concedes that he is liable for failing to meet his support obligations under the Act. He also concedes that he owes plaintiffs the amount they demand for the year 2013. Accordingly, the court will grant plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment with respect to liability and to the damages demanded for 2013.
Defendant disputes the amount of damages he owes plaintiffs for 2012 and 2014, however, and also disputes whether plaintiffs are entitled to an order of specific performance and attorney fees. As discussed below, the court agrees with plaintiffs regarding the 2014 damages, as well as to their entitlement to specific performance and attorney fees. However, the court will order additional briefing and submission of evidence from the parties regarding 2012, as well as the most appropriate form for an order of specific performance in this case.
Plaintiff Evelyn Santana married defendant Billy Ray Hatch in Spain in 2009. In consideration for Santana and her children becoming permanent residents of the United States, Hatch then signed an “I-864 affidavit, ” agreeing to support Santana and her minor children at 125% of the federal poverty level. Santana and her children became permanent residents in 2010 and remain so to this day. On May 2, 2012, Santana separated from Hatch, and on December 8, 2013, they divorced. Pursuant to the judgment of divorce, Hatch paid Santana a lump sum of $4, 038. Hatch has not paid Santana or her children any other monetary support since May 1, 2012.
The Immigration and Nationality Act forbids admission to the United States of any immigrant who “is likely at any time to become a public charge.” 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(A); see also id., § 1601(2)(A), (5). This provision is implemented by requiring a person who sponsors an immigrant for admission to “execute an affidavit of support.” 8 C.F.R. § 213a.2(a), (b); see also 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(4)(C)(ii). The affidavit, called a Form I-864, is in the form of a contract between the sponsor and the United States. 8 C.F.R. § 213a.2(d). The affidavit obligates the sponsor to support the sponsored immigrant at 125% of the poverty income level indefinitely, unless one of the five scenarios applies: (1) the sponsor dies; (2) the sponsored immigrant dies; (3) the sponsored immigrant becomes a United States citizen; (4) the sponsored immigrant departs the United States permanently; or (5) the sponsored immigrant is credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work. The Act expressly authorizes the sponsored immigrant to sue the sponsor in federal court to enforce the affidavit. Id. § 1183(a)(1)(C).
In this case, there is no dispute that defendant signed I-864 affidavits of support for plaintiffs and that none of the conditions that might terminate his obligation of support apply. Accordingly, plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment on their claim that defendant is obligated to support them in accordance with the requirements of the affidavits. The only disputes concern the relief to which plaintiffs are entitled. Specifically, plaintiffs request damages for 2012, 2013 and 2014, as well as an order of specific performance and attorney fees. The court addresses each request below.
Plaintiffs’ household income was $18, 293.00 in 2012. The 125% poverty level for a family of four for that year was $28, 812.50. As plaintiffs concede, however, they lived with defendant until May 1, 2012, on 121 days out of 365 days. Plaintiffs offer three suggestions for calculating damages in light of the parties sharing a household for part of the year:
(1) assume defendant provided only de minimis support to plaintiffs from January 1, 2012 until April 20, 2012 and allow plaintiffs to recover $10, 519.50;
(2) assume plaintiffs’ income contributed to the shared household expenses from January 1, 2012 to April 30, 2012, and allow plaintiffs’ income, as well as 125% of the poverty level, to be prorated for a total in damages of $7, 042; or
(3) assume defendant provided total support for the family, while plaintiffs contributed nothing, from January 1, 2012 to April 30, 2012, requiring plaintiffs’ total-year income to be compared against 125% of the poverty level, prorated for the part of the year plaintiffs lived separately from defendant, for an amount of $994.
Plaintiffs argue that option 2 is the fairest way to calculate damages for 2012, because it accounts for the joint contributions to the shared household up to the point of separation. The court would likely agree with plaintiffs, if they had submitted evidence proving earned income during the first 121 days of 2012. Unfortunately, however, plaintiffs submitted only Evelyn Santana’s tax return and W2 information showing the total income she earned in 2012, but submitted no evidence showing when that income was earned. If Santana earned income while she and her children shared a household with defendant, it would be reasonable to conclude that plaintiffs and defendant shared household expenses, assuming defendant has no contrary evidence. However, if Santana did not earn income ...