481 U.S. 828 (1987), 85-2067, United States v. Mendoza-Lopez

Docket Nº:No. 85-2067
Citation:481 U.S. 828, 107 S.Ct. 2148, 95 L.Ed.2d 772, 55 U.S.L.W. 4688
Party Name:United States v. Mendoza-Lopez
Case Date:May 26, 1987
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 828

481 U.S. 828 (1987)

107 S.Ct. 2148, 95 L.Ed.2d 772, 55 U.S.L.W. 4688

United States

v.

Mendoza-Lopez

No. 85-2067

United States Supreme Court

May 26, 1987

Argued March 3, 1987

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Title 8 U.S.C. § 1326 provides that any alien who has been deported and thereafter enters the United States is guilty of a felony. Respondents, Mexican nationals, were arrested and deported after a group hearing at which they purportedly waived their rights to apply for suspension of deportation and to appeal. Subsequently, respondents were again arrested in this country and indicted on charges of violating § 1326. However, the District Court dismissed the indictments, ruling that respondents could collaterally attack their previous deportation orders. The court found that they had not understood the Immigration Judge's explanation of suspension of deportation, and concluded that the reliability of the proceedings had been totally undermined by the fact that they had not made knowing and intelligent waivers of their right to that remedy or their right to appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, since a material element of [107 S.Ct. 2150] the offense prohibited by § 1326 was a "lawful" deportation order, principles of fundamental fairness required a pretrial review of the underlying deportation to determine whether respondents received due process of law. Because they did not fully understand the proceedings, the court found a due process violation rendering the deportation order unlawful, and therefore not a proper basis for the charges against respondents.

Held:

1. The text, legislative history, and background of § 1326 indicate that Congress did not intend the validity of an underlying deportation order to be contestable in a § 1326 prosecution. Section 1326's express language does not suggest that only a "lawful" deportation may be an element of the offense, thereby permitting a collateral challenge. Moreover, in enacting § 1326, Congress had available to it at least one predecessor statute containing express language that would have permitted collateral challenges, but failed to include that language in § 1326. While there was, at the time of § 1326's enactment, some case law suggesting that collateral attacks might be permissible under certain circumstances, that principle was not so unequivocally established that Congress must have intended to incorporate it into § 1326. Furthermore, the Immigration and Nationality Act does include sections -- particularly 8 U.S.C. § 1105(a) -- dealing with judicial review of deportation

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orders, which, although not directly applicable to this case, indicate that Congress considered and addressed some of the various circumstances in which challenges to deportation orders might arise without mentioning § 1326. Pp. 833-837.

2. Due process requires that a collateral challenge to the use of a deportation proceeding as an element of a criminal offense be permitted where the deportation proceeding effectively eliminates the right of the alien to obtain judicial review. Pp. 837-842.

(a) Depriving an alien of the right to have the disposition of a deportation hearing reviewed in a judicial forum requires, at a minimum, that review be made available in any subsequent proceeding in which the result of the deportation proceeding is used to establish an element of a criminal offense. Pp. 837-839.

(b) Respondents' deportation hearing was fundamentally unfair, and violated due process. By permitting waivers of the right to appeal that were not the result of considered or intelligent judgment by respondents, the Immigration Judge completely deprived them of their right to judicial review of the deportation proceeding. This deprivation precludes the use of the deportation orders to prove § 1326 violations. Pp. 839-840.

(c) Lewis v. United States, 445 U.S. 55, is distinguishable from the instant case, since it assumed the opportunity to challenge the underlying decision in a judicial forum, precisely that which was denied respondents here. Pp. 840-842.

781 F.2d 111, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which WHITE and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined, post, p. 842. SCALIA, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 846.

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MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we must determine whether an alien who is prosecuted under 8 U.S.C. § 1326 for illegal entry following deportation may assert in that criminal proceeding the invalidity of the underlying deportation order.

I

Respondents, Jose Mendoza-Lopez and Angel Landeros-Quinones, were arrested at separate locations in Lincoln, Nebraska, on October 23, 1984, by agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. On October 30, 1984, they were transported to Denver, Colorado, where a group deportation hearing was held for respondents along with 11 other persons, all of whom were, like respondents, Mexican nationals.1 After the hearing, respondents were ordered deported and were bused to El Paso, Texas. They were deported from El Paso on November 1, 1984. Each received, at the time of his deportation, a copy of Form I-294, which advised, in both Spanish and English, that a return to the United States without permission following deportation would constitute a felony.

On December 12, 1984, both respondents were once again separately arrested in Lincoln, Nebraska. They were subsequently indicted by a grand jury in the District of Nebraska on charges of violating 8 U.S.C. § 1326, which provides:

Any alien who --

(1) has been arrested and deported or excluded and deported, and thereafter

(2) enters, attempts to enter, or is at any time found in the United States . . .

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shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof, be punished by imprisonment of not more than two years, or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.2

Respondents moved in the District Court to dismiss their indictments on the ground that they were denied fundamentally fair deportation hearings. They contended that the Immigration Law Judge inadequately informed them of their right to counsel at the hearing, and accepted their unknowing waivers of the right to apply for suspension of deportation.3

The District Court ruled that respondents could collaterally attack their previous deportation orders. United States v. Landeros-Quinones, CR 85-L-06 (Feb. 28, 1985). It rejected their claims that they were not adequately informed of their right to counsel. It found, however, that respondents had apparently failed to understand the Immigration Judge's explanation of suspension of deportation.4 The District

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[107 S.Ct. 2152] Court concluded that respondents had not made knowing and intelligent waivers of their rights to apply for suspension of deportation or their rights to appeal, finding it

inconceivable that they would so lightly waive their rights to appeal, and thus to the relief they now claim entitlement, [sic] if they had been fully apprised of the ramifications of such a choice.

App. to Pet. for Cert. 23a. Holding that the

failure to overcome these defendants' lack of understanding about the proceedings, which is apparent from listening to the tape recording, totally undermined the reliability of the proceedings

and that "substantial justice was not done," the District Court dismissed the indictments in both cases. Id. at 26a.

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed. 781 F.2d 111 (1985). Noting a conflict among the Circuits regarding whether a defendant prosecuted under § 1326 may collaterally attack a deportation order, the court agreed with those Courts of Appeals that had concluded that a material element of the offense prohibited by § 1326 was a "lawful" deportation. Id. at 112. It went on to state that principles of fundamental fairness required a pretrial review of the underlying deportation to examine whether the alien received due process of law. The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's conclusion that there was a due process violation in this case, holding that,

[b]ecause the defendants did not fully understand the proceedings, the hearing was fundamentally unfair, and the deportation order was obtained unlawfully. Thus, it cannot stand as a material element forming the basis of the charges against the defendants.

Id. at 113.5

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To resolve the conflict among the Circuits,6 we granted certiorari. 479 U.S. 811 (1986). We affirm.

II

In United States v. Spector, 343 U.S. 169 (1952), we left open whether the validity of an underlying order of deportation may be challenged in a criminal prosecution in which that prior deportation is an element of the crime.7 Today, we

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squarely confront [107 S.Ct. 2153] this question in the context of § 1326, which imposes a criminal penalty on any alien who has been deported and subsequently enters, attempts to enter, or is found in, the United States. The issue before us is whether a federal court must always accept as conclusive the fact of the deportation order, even if the deportation proceeding was not conducted in conformity with due process.8

The first question we must address is whether the statute itself provides for a challenge to the validity of the deportation order in a proceeding under § 1326. Some of the Courts of Appeals considering the question have held that a deportation is an element of the offense defined by § 1326 only if it is "lawful,"9 and that § 1326 therefore permits collateral

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