United States v. Gonzalez-Fierro, No. 18-2168 (10th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Defendant Rodolfo Gonzalez-Fierro, a Mexican citizen, challenged his conviction for unlawfully re-entering the United States after a prior removal. That conviction was based in part on Gonzalez-Fierro’s prior expedited removal from the United States in 2009. Due process required that, before the United States can use a defendant’s prior removal to prove a 8 U.S.C. 1326(a) charge, “there must be some meaningful review” of the prior administrative removal proceeding. In light of that, Congress provided a mechanism in section 1326(d), for a defendant charged with a section 1326(a) offense to challenge the fundamental fairness of his prior unreviewed removal. But, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1225(b)(1)(D), the section 1326(d) mechanism applied only to prior formal removal orders, and not to prior expedited removal orders like Gonzalez-Fierro’s. "Expedited removals apply to undocumented aliens apprehended at or near the border soon after unlawfully entering the United States. Different from formal removals, expedited removals are streamlined - generally there is no hearing, no administrative appeal, and no judicial review before an expedited removal order is executed." Applying the Supreme Court’s reasoning in United States v. Mendoza-Lopez, 481 U.S. 828 (1987), the Tenth Circuit concluded section 1225(b)(1)(D) was unconstitutional because it deprives a defendant like Gonzalez-Fierro of due process. Without section 1225(b)(1)(D), the Court reviewed Gonzalez-Fierro's 2009 expedited removal order, and concluded he failed to establish that removal was fundamentally unfair. On that basis, the Court affirmed Gonzalez-Fierro's section 1326(a) conviction.