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Sanchez v. Sessions

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 30, 2017

Luis Enrique Sanchez, AKA Enrique Cruz Sanchez, AKA Luis Llamas Sanchez, AKA Luis Charles Sanchez, AKA Enrique Sanchez Cruz, AKA Luis Enrique Sanchez Llamas, Petitioner,
v.
Jefferson B. Sessions III, Attorney General, Respondent.

          Argued and Submitted March 8, 2017 Pasadena, California

         On Petition for Review of an Order of the Board of Immigration Appeals Agency No. A076-359-028

          John Wolfgang Gehart (argued), Lourdes Barrera Haley, Elena Yampolsky, and Carlos Vellanoweth, Vellanoweth & Gehart LLP, Los Angeles, California, for Petitioner.

          Tim Ramnitz (argued), Attorney; Jennifer P. Levings, Senior Litigation Counsel; Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; for Respondent.

          Before: Harry Pregerson, Richard A. Paez, and Morgan B. Christen, Circuit Judges.

         SUMMARY[*]

         Immigration

         The panel granted, reversed, and remanded Luis Enrique Sanchez's petition for review of the Board of Immigration Appeals' decision affirming an immigration judge's decision denying Sanchez's motion to suppress evidence of his alienage and ordering his removal.

         The panel held that Coast Guard officers who detained Sanchez committed an egregious Fourth Amendment violation because they seized Sanchez based on his Latino ethnicity alone. Accordingly, the panel held that the immigration judge erred in failing to suppress the Form I-213 (Record of Deportable/Inadmissible Alien), which was prepared after his immigration arrest and which the Government introduced to establish Sanchez's alienage and entry without inspection. The panel also concluded that Sanchez was not seized at the United States border, where Fourth Amendment protections are lower.

         The panel further held that, because Coast Guard officers detained Sanchez solely on the basis of his Latino ethnicity, the officers violated an immigration regulation, 8 C.F.R. § 287.8(b(2), which provides that an immigration officer may briefly detain an individual only if the officer has "reasonable suspicion, based on specific articulable facts" that the person is engaged in an offense or is an alien illegally in the United States. Accordingly, the panel held that Sanchez's removal proceedings must be terminated based on the regulatory violation because the regulation is designed to benefit Sanchez, and Sanchez was prejudiced by the violation.

         Because the panel concluded Sanchez's proceedings should have been terminated based on the regulatory violation, the panel did not reach the question whether Sanchez's previously-submitted Family Unity Benefits and Employment applications, which the Government also introduced to establish alienage, are indirect fruits of the poisonous tree. The panel granted Sanchez's petition for review and remanded to the Board with instructions to terminate Sanchez's removal proceedings.

         Concurring, Judge Pregerson wrote separately to explain why it is unfair for the Government to encourage noncitizens to apply for immigration relief, and later use statements in those relief applications against them in removal proceedings. Judge Pregerson expressed concern about the Government's argument that the exclusionary rule does not apply to Sanchez's Family Unity Benefits and Employment Authorization applications because they predated the egregious constitutional violation. He wrote that categorically exempting pre-existing applications from the exclusionary rule in this way allows law enforcement to unconstitutionally round up migrant-looking individuals, elicit their names, and then search through Government databases to discover incriminating information in preexisting immigration records.

         Concurring, Judge Christen agreed that the case did not concern a border stop, noting that the Coast Guard did not seize Sanchez at a port of entry and that the evidence did not show that Sanchez's boat had sailed from international waters. Judge Christen also agreed that Sanchez's removal proceedings must be terminated based on the regulatory violation.

          OPINION

          PREGERSON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         This case is about Luis Sanchez, a small boat owner, who took some friends on a fishing trip within United States territorial waters, and ended up in removal proceedings before an immigration judge ("IJ") under section 240 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1229a.

         Here is what happened: Sanchez's small boat was dead in the water because of engine failure near Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California. His friend issued a distress call, and responding United States Coast Guard officers towed Sanchez's boat into Channel Islands Harbor, a private recreational harbor. When they arrived at Channel Islands Harbor, eight Coast Guard officers were waiting for Sanchez and his companions. The Coast Guard officers immediately detained, frisked, and arrested Sanchez and his companions. The Coast Guard officers contacted Customs and Border Protection because the officers suspected that Sanchez and his companions were "undocumented worker[] aliens." Sanchez was then placed in removal proceedings. The matter before us is limited to Sanchez's removal proceedings.

         During removal proceedings before the IJ, the Government sought to establish Sanchez's alienage and his entry into the United States without inspection by introducing: (1) a Form I-213 (Record of Deportable/Inadmissible Alien) that was prepared by a Customs and Border Protection officer after Sanchez's immigration arrest and (2) Sanchez's Family Unity Benefits and Employment Authorization applications.

         At the removal hearing before the IJ, Sanchez moved to suppress the Form I-213 and the Family Unity Benefits and Employment Authorization applications as the fruits of an egregious Fourth Amendment violation. Sanchez argued that the Coast Guard officers egregiously violated his Fourth Amendment rights by detaining him based on his Latino ethnicity alone. The IJ denied Sanchez's motion to suppress and ordered Sanchez removed to Mexico. The Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") affirmed. This Petition for Review timely followed.

         We grant Sanchez's Petition for Review. We conclude that the Coast Guard officers committed an egregious Fourth Amendment violation and violated an immigration regulation because they seized Sanchez based on his Latino ethnicity alone. Thus, we hold that the IJ erred in failing to suppress the Form I-213, but do not reach the question of the Family Unity Benefits and Employment Authorization applications. Additionally, because Sanchez has shown that the Government violated its own regulation that is designed to benefit Sanchez, and that Sanchez was prejudiced by the violation, we hold that Sanchez's removal proceedings must be terminated.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Luis Enrique Sanchez's Immigration History

         Luis Enrique Sanchez is forty-five years old. He was born in, and is a citizen of, Mexico. He entered the United States without inspection in March 1988 when he was seventeen years old. For the last three decades - most of his life - he has lived in Ventura County, California.

         On May 11, 2004, Sanchez submitted Family Unity Benefits and Employment Authorization applications to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service ("USCIS"). USCIS granted Sanchez Family Unity Benefits, which granted him authorization to reside and work in the country, through his father.[1] Sanchez's Benefits expired on May 11, 2006. Sanchez applied for an extension of his Benefits on December 2, 2008. However, on May 28, 2009, USCIS denied Sanchez's applications because Sanchez had three misdemeanor convictions for violations of California's Vehicle Code, and was therefore ineligible for Family Unity Benefits.[2] 8 C.F.R. § 236.13(b).

         Fishing Trip and Immigration Arrest

         On February 25, 2010, Sanchez, two adult Latino friends, and one of the friend's 14-month-old son took a fishing trip. Using Sanchez's small pleasure boat, they departed from the Channel Islands Harbor, a recreational harbor near Port Hueneme in Oxnard, California. Sanchez declared that he and his companions did not travel outside United States territorial waters; indeed, that they did not travel more than two or three miles from the harbor. See Nat'l Oceanic & Atmospheric Admin., U.S. Maritime Limits and Boundaries, https://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/csdl/ mbound.htm (Sept. 13, 2013) (describing that territorial waters extend to 12 nautical miles).

         About thirty minutes into the fishing trip, the small boat's engines lost power and the boat was dead in the water. One of Sanchez's friends on the boat called 911 to request a tow back to the recreational harbor. The U.S. Coast Guard (the "Coast Guard") responded. Upon reaching the boat, the Coast Guard officers towed Sanchez's boat back to Channel Islands Harbor.

         Upon arriving at Channel Islands Harbor around 5:00 p.m., approximately eight Coast Guard officers were waiting onshore for Sanchez and his companions. Once Sanchez and his companions disembarked the boat, the Coast Guard officers immediately detained and frisked them. The Coast Guard officers demanded that Sanchez and his companions hand over their identifications and belongings. Sanchez handed his driver's license to a Coast Guard officer.

         The Coast Guard officers told Sanchez and his companions that they were not allowed to leave. When Sanchez asked why the group was not allowed to leave, a Coast Guard officer told Sanchez not to ask any questions and to wait for someone else to speak with him. Sanchez testified that the Coast Guard officers asked him only two questions, which he answered: (1) what is your name? and (2) where do you live?

         A Coast Guard officer could not "establish positive identity or nationality" of Sanchez.[3] Without any other information, the Coast Guard officers notified U.S. Customs and Border Protection to report "the possibility of 4 undocumented worker[] aliens."[4]

         About two hours later, Customs and Border Protection officers arrived at Channel Islands Harbor and detained the men for two more hours, during which time someone arrived to pick up the infant. Customs and Border Protection officers then transported Sanchez and the two adult Latino males to a Customs and Border Protection facility. The Customs and Border Protection officers detained and interrogated Sanchez, strip searched him, and retained his identification and wallet. Through this questioning, Customs and Border Protection officers obtained information about Sanchez's alienage and entry into the United States. Customs and Border Protection released Sanchez later that night.

         Customs and Border Protection Officer Carlos Rubio prepared a Form I-213 (Record of Deportable/Inadmissible Alien)[5] for Sanchez. The Form I-213 included Sanchez's admission that he was undocumented and had entered the United States without inspection. The Form I-213 also stated that the Coast Guard officers suspected that Sanchez was an "undocumented worker[] alien[], " detained Sanchez, and thereafter contacted Customs and Border Protection.

         PROCEDURAL ...


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