United States v. Corrales-Vazquez, No. 18-50206

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBYBEE, Circuit Judge
Citation931 F.3d 944
Parties UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Oracio CORRALES-VAZQUEZ, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date24 July 2019
Docket NumberNo. 18-50206

931 F.3d 944

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Oracio CORRALES-VAZQUEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 18-50206

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted June 12, 2019 Pasadena, California
Filed July 24, 2019


BYBEE, Circuit Judge:

931 F.3d 946

Federal law makes it a crime for "[a]ny alien" to "enter[ ] or attempt[ ] to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers," 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(1), or to "elude[ ] examination or inspection by immigration officers," id. § 1325(a)(2). In this case, we consider whether an alien who crosses into the country at a non-designated time or place is guilty of "elud[ing] examination or inspection by immigration officers" under § 1325(a)(2). We hold that the answer is no. To convict a defendant under § 1325(a)(2), the government must prove that the alien’s criminal conduct occurred at a time and place designated for "examination or inspection by immigration officers"—i.e., at a port of entry that is open for inspection. Because the government failed to make that showing in this case, we reverse.

I

Oracio Corrales-Vazquez is a native and citizen of Mexico who does not have authorization to enter the United States. In June 2018, he crossed into the United States from Mexico approximately 20 miles east of the port of entry at Tecate, California. Several hours after Corrales crossed into the country, a border patrol officer found him along with three other individuals hiding in some brush approximately four miles north of the international border. Corrales admitted to the officer that he was not authorized to be in the United States. He was arrested and charged with "elud[ing] examination or inspection by immigration officers," in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(2).

The district court held a bench trial, during which Corrales argued that an alien eludes examination or inspection under § 1325(a)(2) only by crossing into the country at a port of entry, a fact that the government failed to prove in his case.1 If an alien could violate § 1325(a)(2) by simply crossing into the United States without examination or inspection, Corrales argued, then § 1325(a)(1) —which specifically prohibits entering or attempting to enter the United States at a non-designated time or place—"would be superfluous."

The district court disagreed with Corrales’s interpretation of § 1325(a)(2), concluding that an alien "eludes examination or inspection" by crossing into the United States "without submitting to" an examination or inspection. After determining that Corrales crossed into the United States without undergoing an examination or inspection, the court found Corrales guilty of violating § 1325(a)(2) and sentenced him to time served. He now appeals his conviction.

931 F.3d 947

II

On appeal, Corrales renews his argument that the government failed to adduce sufficient evidence to prove that he "elude[d] examination or inspection by immigration officers" in violation of § 1325(a)(2). "We review challenges to the sufficiency of evidence, including questions of statutory interpretation, de novo." United States v. Aldana , 878 F.3d 877, 880 (9th Cir. 2017), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 157, 202 L.Ed.2d 96 (2018).

III

Section 1325(a) provides in full:

Any alien who (1) enters or attempts to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers, or (2) eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers, or (3) attempts to enter or obtains entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact, shall, for the first commission of any such offense, be fined under Title 18 or imprisoned not more than 6 months, or both, and, for a subsequent commission of any such offense, be fined under Title 18, or imprisoned not more than 2 years, or both.

Congress first enacted a version of this provision in 1952 as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Pub. L. No. 82-414, § 275, 66 Stat. 163, 229. But its origins date back much farther. Beginning in the early twentieth century, our immigration laws required deportation for certain aliens who entered the United States "at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officials, ... or who enter[ed] without inspection." Immigration Act of 1917, Pub. L. No. 64-301, § 19, 39 Stat. 874, 889.2 In 1929, Congress decided that aliens who "enter the United States surreptitiously" should be subject to not only deportation but also criminal penalties, H.R. Rep. No. 70-2418, at 7–8 (1929), and revised the prohibitions in the 1917 statute to be "broad enough to cover entry in any manner," id. at 4. The new criminal statute thus made it a misdemeanor for any alien to "enter[ ] the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officials or elude[ ] examination or inspection by immigration officials, or obtain[ ] entry to the United States by a willfully false or misleading representation or the willful concealment of a material fact." Act of Mar. 4, 1929, Pub. L. No. 70-1018, § 2, 45 Stat. 1551, 1551 (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 180a (Supp. III 1929)). Congress replicated the 1929 statute’s three substantive prohibitions with minimal alteration in 1952 in the INA, and in 1990 added liability for "attempt[ing] to enter" under § 1325(a)(1) and § 1325(a)(3). See Immigration Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-649, § 543(b)(2), 104 Stat. 4978, 5059.

We are concerned here with what it means for an alien to "elude[ ] examination or inspection by immigration officers" under § 1325(a)(2).3 In the government’s view, any alien who crosses into the United States without examination or inspection

931 F.3d 948

necessarily "eludes examination or inspection," even if the alien crosses miles away from any place where those processes occur. Corrales, by contrast, contends that the conduct criminalized by § 1325(a)(2) can occur only at places and times designated for examination or inspection by immigration officers. Taking into account the statutory text and context, we reject the government’s reading of § 1325(a)(2) and hold that the crime of "elud[ing] examination or inspection by immigration officers" can be committed only where and when examinations or inspections take place—at open ports of entry.

A

"We begin, as usual, with the statutory text." Maslenjak v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 137 S. Ct. 1918, 1924, 198 L.Ed.2d 460 (2017). And because the relevant phrase—"eludes examination or inspection by immigration officers," 8 U.S.C. § 1325(a)(2) —"has remained unchanged" since it was first used in 1929, it "presumptively retains its original meaning," Whitfield v. United States , 574 U.S. 265, 135 S. Ct. 785, 788, 190 L.Ed.2d 656 (2015).

The processes referenced in § 1325(a)(2) —"examination or inspection by immigration officers"—occur, as they always have, at "designated ports of entry" that are "staffed by immigration officials" and "open for inspection." Aldana , 878 F.3d at 882 (citing 8 C.F.R. § 235.1(a) ); see Ngim Ah Oy v. Haff , 112 F.2d 607, 608 (9th Cir. 1940) ; Kaneda v. United States , 278 F. 694, 696–97 (9th Cir. 1922).4 And as a literal matter, entering the United States without examination or inspection, regardless of where or how, could be described as "elud[ing]" those processes if, as the government urges, the word "elude" is defined broadly to mean "evade compliance with or fulfilment of" an obligation, 3 Oxford English Dictionary 97 (1st ed. 1933) ("OED First "). Several considerations, however, lead us to reject that expansive interpretation.

To begin with, not every "word in a statute ... extend[s] to the outer limits of its definitional possibilities," and the government’s interpretation of the word "eludes" "sits uncomfortably with common usage." Abuelhawa v. United States , 556 U.S. 816, 820, 129 S.Ct. 2102, 173 L.Ed.2d 982 (2009) (quoting Dolan v. U.S. Postal Serv. , 546 U.S. 481, 486, 126 S.Ct. 1252, 163 L.Ed.2d 1079 (2006) ). In 1929, as today, the verb "elude" was more commonly used to mean "avoid slyly, by artifice, stratagem, or dexterity," or "escape from in a covert manner." Webster’s New International Dictionary 713 (1st ed. 1930); see also, e.g. , Concise Oxford Dictionary of

931 F.3d 949

Current English 368 (2d ed. 1929) ("[e]scape adroitly from"); 3 OED First 97 ("escape by dexterity or stratagem," or "slip away from, escape adroitly from"); Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary 267 (6th ed. 1951) ("avoid adroitly, as by artifice; evade," or "escape the notice of"); Webster’s New World College Dictionary 455 (2d ed. 1970) ("avoid or escape from by quickness, cunning, etc.," or "escape detection, notice, or understanding by"); Webster’s Third New International Dictionary 738 (2002) ("avoid slyly or adroitly," or "escape the notice or perception of"). To "elude" something would not usually mean to simply avoid it—the avoidance generally contemplates some form of "escape," whether through "quickness [or] cunning[ness]." United States v. Oscar , 496 F.2d 492, 494 (9th Cir. 1974) (citation omitted).5 For example, "in the case of five seamen who were not produced for inspection upon arrival" of a ship, one might say that the...

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63 practice notes
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    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • April 17, 2020
    ...] to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers.’ " United States v. Corrales-Vazquez, 931 F.3d 944, 950 (9th Cir. 2019) (quoting 8 U.S.C. § 1325 ) (" Section 1325(a)(1) covers aliens who enter or attempt to enter outside of an open port of......
  • United States v. Muskett, No. 17-2123
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 14, 2020
    ...In 970 F.3d 1255 the absence of any discussion, the Ninth Circuit's internal division remained. See United States v. Corrales–Vazquez , 931 F.3d 944, 954 (9th Cir. 2019) ("[C]ases are not precedential for propositions not considered or for questions which merely lurk in the record." (intern......
  • United States v. Rundo, No. 19-50189
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • March 4, 2021
    ...to riot] be left out." United States v. Carona , 660 F.3d 360, 369 (9th Cir. 2011) ; see also United States v. Corrales-Vazquez , 931 F.3d 944, 957–58 (9th Cir. 2019) (Fernandez, J., dissenting); cf. Marinello v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S. Ct. 1101, 1107, 200 L. Ed. 2d 356 (2018)......
  • United States v. Rizo-Rizo, 20-50172
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 29, 2021
    ...2084, 85 L.Ed.2d 434 (1985).We know that § 1325(a) was enacted to control unlawful immigration. See United States v. Corrales-Vazquez , 931 F.3d 944, 947 (9th Cir. 2019) ; H.R. Rep. No. 70-2418, at 7–8 (1929). This is a normal regulatory function of the sovereign. And § 1325(a)(1) prohibits......
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64 cases
  • United States v. Gonzalez-Pena, Case No.: 19-mj-10520-RBM-H
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of California)
    • April 17, 2020
    ...] to enter the United States at any time or place other than as designated by immigration officers.’ " United States v. Corrales-Vazquez, 931 F.3d 944, 950 (9th Cir. 2019) (quoting 8 U.S.C. § 1325 ) (" Section 1325(a)(1) covers aliens who enter or attempt to enter outside of an open port of......
  • United States v. Muskett, No. 17-2123
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 14, 2020
    ...In 970 F.3d 1255 the absence of any discussion, the Ninth Circuit's internal division remained. See United States v. Corrales–Vazquez , 931 F.3d 944, 954 (9th Cir. 2019) ("[C]ases are not precedential for propositions not considered or for questions which merely lurk in the record." (intern......
  • United States v. Kirst, 20-30193
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    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • November 22, 2022
    ...as a "proceeding" is one that is being conducted under "the law" that is being "administ[ered]." See United States v. Corrales-Vazquez, 931 F.3d 944, 954 (9th Cir. 2019) ("Cases are not precedential for propositions not considered." (simplified)). Moreover, Kelley distinguishes its holding ......
  • United States v. Rundo, No. 19-50189
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • March 4, 2021
    ...to riot] be left out." United States v. Carona , 660 F.3d 360, 369 (9th Cir. 2011) ; see also United States v. Corrales-Vazquez , 931 F.3d 944, 957–58 (9th Cir. 2019) (Fernandez, J., dissenting); cf. Marinello v. United States , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S. Ct. 1101, 1107, 200 L. Ed. 2d 356 (2018)......
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