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Salmeron-Salmeron v. Spivey

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

June 13, 2019

PEDRO ARTURO SALMERON-SALMERON, Petitioner - Appellant,
v.
WARDEN BILL SPIVEY, FORMER SECRETARY DHS JEH JOHNSON, ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL SALLY QUILLIAN YATES, Respondents - Appellees.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia No. 4:16-cv-00291-CDL-MSH

          Before MARCUS and BLACK, Circuit Judges, and RESTANI, [*] Judge.

          RESTANI, JUDGE

         Pedro Arturo Salmeron-Salmeron, an El Salvadorian national, appeals the district court's dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus and partial grant of summary judgment in favor of the Government regarding Salmeron-Salmeron's claim that United States Citizen and Immigration Services ("USCIS") should have exercised jurisdiction over his application for asylum.

         After a review of the record and consideration of the arguments made both in the briefs and during oral argument, we affirm the district court's dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus and partial grant of summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are not in dispute. In May 2014, Salmeron-Salmeron entered the United States as a sixteen-year-old. On his initial I-213, Record of Deportable/Inadmissible Alien form ("I-213"), a border officer indicated that Salmeron-Salmeron feared returning to El Salvador. He was identified as an unaccompanied alien child ("UAC"), and eventually released to his parents in North Carolina.

         Appellant's parents hired an immigration attorney, but the attorney did not file a claim for asylum, for withholding of removal, or under the Convention Against Torture.[1] Instead, the attorney applied for voluntary departure only, which an Immigration Judge granted. Salmeron-Salmeron did not depart by July 21, 2015, as required by the terms of the voluntary departure, so the order became a final order of removal. On August 27, 2015, Salmeron-Salmeron turned eighteen years old. In January 2016, Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") detained Salmeron-Salmeron, completed a new I-213 stating that Salmeron-Salmeron was eighteen, and transferred him to the Stewart County Detention Center-an adult detention facility in Lumpkin, Georgia.

         During his detention, Salmeron-Salmeron filed an asylum application with USCIS and a petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241.[2] On July 28, 2016, USCIS determined that it did not have jurisdiction over Appellant's asylum claim because his UAC determination had been terminated prior to his filing for asylum. Salmeron-Salmeron was deported to El Salvador on November 12, 2016.

         In a Report and Recommendation to the district court, the magistrate judge recommended the dismissal of Salmeron-Salmeron's habeas corpus claim as moot given his deportation from the United States. Report and Recommendation, Salmeron-Salmeron v. Lynch, No. 4:16-cv-291-CDL-MSH (M.D. Ga. Aug. 24, 2017) ("Report and Recommendation"). The magistrate judge also recommended that the district court grant the Government's motion for partial summary judgment on Salmeron-Salmeron's APA claims under 5 U.S.C. § 706 because USCIS had a rational basis for its decision. Id. at 10. After a de novo review of the record and consideration of Salmeron-Salmeron's objections, the district court adopted the Report and Recommendation in full and entered judgment on September 25, 2017. Order on Report and Recommendation, Salmeron-Salmeron v. Spivey, No. 4:16-cv-291-CDL (M.D. Ga. Sept. 22, 2017) ("Order on Report and Recommendation"); Salmeron-Salmeron v. Spivey, No. 4:16-cv-291-CDL-MSH (M.D. Ga. Sept. 25, 2017).

         On appeal, Salmeron-Salmeron asserts two claims. First, he argues that the inclusion of numerous documents unrelated to the jurisdictional decision of USCIS and initial exclusion of other documents relied on by USCIS precluded effective judicial review. Second, he argues that the jurisdictional decision of USCIS was arbitrary and capricious because it violated agency procedures regarding UAC designations. Specifically, Salmeron-Salmeron argues that agency procedure required USCIS to adopt his previous UAC designation and exercise jurisdiction over his asylum claim because no affirmative act terminating that designation occurred. In a footnote, Salmeron-Salmeron also contends that if the Court reverses the district court's summary judgment decision on the APA claims, it should also reverse the decision to dismiss his habeas claim as moot.

         II. JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291 to review the final decision of the district court.[3] It reviews a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo. Byars v. Coca-Cola Co., 517 F.3d 1256, 1263 (11th Cir. 2008). Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court considers all evidence and inferences reasonably drawn therefrom "in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." McCullum v. Orlando Reg'l Healthcare Sys., Inc., 768 F.3d 1135, 1141 (11th Cir. 2014).

         Because Salmeron-Salmeron appeals the decision of USCIS under the APA, the Court reviews whether the agency's decision was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A); Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 41 (1983). This is a deferential standard; a court does not substitute its own judgment for that of the agency, but assesses whether the agency arrived at a rational conclusion connected to the evidence. State Farm, 463 U.S. at 43. Further, the Court employs a harmless-error analysis when "a mistake of the administrative body is one that clearly had no bearing on the procedure used or the substance of decision reached." Animal Legal Def. Fund v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 789 F.3d 1206, 1224 n.13 (11th Cir. 2015) (citations omitted); see also 5 U.S.C. § 706 (instructing a reviewing court to take account of "the rule of prejudicial error").

         III. ...


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