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United States v. Gomez-Ramirez

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

March 19, 2019

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
MARVIN ODIEL GOMEZ-RAMIREZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          HON. PATTI B. SARIS Chief U.S. District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendant Marvin Odiel Gomez-Ramirez moves to dismiss the indictment charging him with illegal reentry in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326. Relying on Pereira v. Sessions, 138 S.Ct. 2105 (2018), he argues that his prior removal order was entered without jurisdiction because his Notice to Appear ("NTA"), the document served on an alien and filed with the immigration court that initiates removal proceedings, did not include the date and time of his removal hearing. After a hearing, the Court holds that Gomez-Ramirez fails to satisfy the three requirements of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(d) in his collateral attack on his prior removal order. Accordingly, the Court DENIES Gomez-Ramirez's motion to dismiss the indictment (Docket No. 38).

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Gomez-Ramirez is a citizen of Guatemala. In 2001, at the age of twelve, he came to the United States without documents to live with his sister in Miami, Florida. He subsequently moved to Massachusetts. On March 17, 2011, he was arrested in connection with a burglary in Lynn, Massachusetts. Two months later, he pled guilty and was sentenced to six months of imprisonment. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") removed Gomez-Ramirez from the country on November 10.[1] In June 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP") encountered Gomez-Ramirez attempting to reenter the United States in Texas. CBP reinstated his 2011 removal order and removed him again.

         Gomez-Ramirez then returned to the United States for a third time. ICE detained him in Lynn, Massachusetts on November 25, 2015. He was handed an NTA on the same date. The NTA stated that he was ordered to appear before an immigration judge in Boston "on [date] To be set at [time] To be set." Dkt. No. 38-7 at 1. Gomez-Ramirez and an ICE officer attested on the second page of the NTA that Gomez-Ramirez was personally served with the NTA and given a list of attorneys providing free legal services. After a hearing that he attended, Gomez-Ramirez was ordered removed on December 17, 2015, and he waived his right to an appeal. On the same day, he was indicted for illegal reentry in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326. He entered a guilty plea in February 2016 and was sentenced to time served and three years of supervised release. On June 3, 2016, Gomez-Ramirez was removed to Guatemala.

         Gomez-Ramirez returned a fourth time. The government encountered him back in Lynn, Massachusetts on July 1, 2017. On April 26, 2018, he was indicted again for illegal reentry in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326 based on his 2015 removal order.

         DISCUSSION

         Gomez-Ramirez moves to dismiss the indictment on the basis that his 2015 removal order was entered without jurisdiction because the NTA filed with the immigration court in his case did not include the date and time of his removal hearing. He relies on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Pereira v. Sessions, which held that an NTA without the date and time of the removal hearing was not a valid NTA under 8 U.S.C. § 1229(a) and did not trigger the stop-time rule for cancellation of removal.[2] 138 S.Ct. at 2110. Agency regulations require the filing of an NTA with the immigration court to trigger the court's jurisdiction for removal proceedings, 8 C.F.R. § 1003.14(a), but the regulatory definition of an NTA does not require that it include the date and time of the hearing, see id. §§ 1003.15, 1003.18. Because Gomez-Ramirez's NTA did not include the date and time of his hearing, he contends it was invalid under Pereira and did not vest the immigration court with jurisdiction to order his removal. He alleges his prior removal order is therefore void and cannot support an illegal reentry charge.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(1), a defendant "may raise by pretrial motion any defense . . . that the court can determine without a trial on the merits." Pure questions of law are properly considered on a pretrial motion to dismiss. United States v. Pope, 613 F.3d 1255, 1260 (10th Cir. 2010); United States v. O'Brien, 994 F.Supp.2d 167, 174 n.2 (D. Mass. 2014). Because courts must treat the indictment's allegations as true in evaluating a motion to dismiss, defendants cannot raise claims relating to the sufficiency of the evidence underlying the indictment in a motion to dismiss. United States v. Guerrier, 669 F.3d 1, 3-4 (1st Cir. 2011). However, "a district court may consider a pretrial motion to dismiss an indictment where the government does not dispute the ability of the court to reach the motion and proffers, stipulates, or otherwise does not dispute the pertinent facts." United States v. Musso, 914 F.3d 26, 29-30 (1st Cir. 2019) (quoting United States v. Weaver, 659 F.3d 353, 355 n.* (4th Cir. 2011)).

         II. Illegal Reentry

         8 U.S.C. § 1326(a) "forbids an alien who once was deported to return to the United States without special permission." Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U.S. 224, 226 (1998). To convict a defendant of illegal reentry, "the government must prove that the defendant: (1) is an alien, (2) was previously deported, and (3) thereafter entered, or attempted to enter, the United States without permission." United States v. Contreras Palacios, 492 F.3d 39, 42 (1st Cir. 2007).

         A defendant charged with illegal reentry has a due process right to challenge the validity of the underlying removal order. See United States v. Mendoza-Lopez, 481 U.S. 828, 837-39 (1987). Congress codified this right in 8 U.S.C. § 1326(d). United States v. DeLeon, 444 F.3d 41, 44 (1st Cir. 2006). Under § 1326(d), a defendant may challenge the validity of a prior removal order if he shows that (1) he has "exhausted any administrative remedies that may have been available to seek relief against the order; (2) the deportation proceedings at which the order was issued improperly deprived the alien of the opportunity for judicial review; and (3) the entry of the order was fundamentally unfair." 8 U.S.C. § 1326(d); United States v. Soto-Mateo, 799 F.3d 117, 120 (1st Cir. 2015). The defendant bears the burden on a collateral attack of a prior removal order and must satisfy all three elements to prevail. Soto-Mateo, 799 F.3d at 120-21. To satisfy the third prong of fundamental unfairness, the defendant must make "a showing of procedural error and prejudice." United States v. Luna, 436 F.3d 312, 319 ...


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