Juan Sandoval Lopez v. Mike Pompeo, Secretary, et

Case: 18-40175 Document: 00514955516 Page: 1 Date Filed: 05/14/2019 IN THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit No. 18-40175 FILED May 14, 2019 Lyle W. Cayce JUAN GERARDO SANDOVAL LOPEZ, Clerk Plaintiff - Appellant v. MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE; UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendants - Appellees Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas Before CLEMENT, OWEN, and HO, Circuit Judges. JAMES C. HO, Circuit Judge: This is the second time that Juan Gerardo Sandoval Lopez has filed suit seeking a judicial declaration of U.S. citizenship under 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a). The first time he sued, the district court concluded that the suit was jurisdictionally barred under the terms of 8 U.S.C. § 1503(a)—namely, because his claim of citizenship had previously been raised, and rejected, in two separate removal proceedings nearly two decades earlier. So when the same suit appeared before the same court a second time, the case was dismissed on res judicata grounds. But that was erroneous. Because in the appeal from the first suit, we affirmed, but on an entirely different ground—namely, because Lopez was not “within Case: 18-40175 Document: 00514955516 Page: 2 Date Filed: 05/14/2019 No. 18-40175 the United States” at the time of suit. That jurisdictional failure has been cured in this second suit. Accordingly, we reverse the dismissal of suit on res judicata grounds, and remand for further proceedings. I. Lopez’s father (Carlos Sandoval) obtained a United States passport in 1991 based on a false Texas birth certificate. In 1994, he admitted to federal immigration authorities, in the presence of his attorney, that in fact he was born in Mexico, not Texas—and that he was not a U.S. citizen. Based on those admissions, federal immigration officials commenced removal proceedings against Lopez, his father, and the rest of their family. During the removal proceedings, Lopez’s father recanted his prior admission. He submitted a motion claiming citizenship for himself, as well as derivative legal status for his entire family, including Lopez, to remain in the United States. These removal proceedings concluded in 1997. The immigration court found that Lopez’s father had used a false birth certificate to obtain a U.S. passport for himself, as well as legal status in the United States for his family. Accordingly, the immigration court issued an order of removal against the entire family, including Lopez. The order was issued in absentia, because the family had returned to Mexico in the meantime. The district court summarized the 1997 removal proceedings in its decision in Lopez’s first § 1503(a) suit, as follows: “On September 23, 1997, deportation proceedings were held to determine Sandoval’s and Lopez’s citizenship; Sandoval and Lopez failed to appear. At the proceedings, the Court ruled that Sandoval and Lopez were not United States citizens; instead, 2 Case: 18-40175 Document: 00514955516 Page: 3 Date Filed: 05/14/2019 No. 18-40175 the Court concluded both were native citizens of Mexico.” Sandoval v. Tillerson, 2017 WL 7794606, ...

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