Sanchez v. Sessions, 9th Cir., 08-30-17

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

Opinion by Judge Pregerson; Concurrence by Judge Pregerson; Concurrence by Judge Christen

Here’s the Court Staff’s summary of the opinions. It’s NOT part of the Court’s opinion, but nevertheless quite informative.

“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 pre- existing 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.”


This egregious Fourth Amendment violation generated three thoughtful opinions from U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges. Yet, it got a “free pass” from  the BIA. Just another ho-hum day at the office. But, what about the BIA’s responsibility to “guarantee fairness and due process for all?” Doesn’t it extend to constitutional rights?

Judge Pregerson’s concurring opinion also suggests a line of legal attack for “Dreamers” if legislative protections are not enacted and they are thrown into removal proceedings. In most cases, the Dreamers came forward voluntarily, in fact were encouraged to do so by the USG, and applied to the USCIS for DACA and work authorization. In the process they furnished information about their lack of legal status in the U.S.

In many cases, that will be the sole evidence supporting a charge of removability. Dreamers’ counsel can argue, and some Federal Courts are likely to agree, that the use of that information to establish removability is “fundamentally unfair” and therefore a violation of  constitutional due process.