Fuentes-Espinoza v. ColoradoAnnotate this Case
Petitioner Bernardino Fuentes-Espinoza challenged his convictions under Colorado’s human smuggling statute on the ground that that statute was preempted by the federal Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In 2007, Fuentes-Espinoza was walking along the Las Vegas Strip when an individual approached him and offered him $500 to drive several family members from Phoenix to Kansas. En route, Fuentes-Espinoza stopped at a gas station in Wheat Ridge, Colorado to get gas and to repair a broken taillight. As pertinent here, he went into the station to pay and gave the clerk a one-hundred-dollar bill, which apparently had been included in the travel money that Fuentes-Espinoza had received. The clerk determined that the bill was counterfeit and called the police. A responding police officer asked Fuentes-Espinoza about the counterfeit bill and the people in the van. The officer then spoke with the people in the van and requested identification from them. After doing so, the officer spoke with his supervisor to report on his investigation and to get further instructions. The supervisor told the officer to bring the group to the police station, and the officer did so. The officer then called the human smuggling hotline, and the hotline sent representatives to the station to assist. The court of appeals did not consider Fuentes-Espinoza’s preemption argument because it was unpreserved. The Colorado Supreme Court exercised its discretion to review that argument and concluded that the INA preempted section 18-13-128 C.R.S. (2017) under the doctrines of both field and conflict preemption. The Court reversed the appellate court’s judgment, and remanded this matter for further consideration.