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Reyes-Soto v. Lynch

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 10, 2015

Juan J. Reyes-Soto, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States; Chester S. Moyer, St. Louis Field Office Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services; Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted September 23, 2015.

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

For Juan J. Reyes-Soto, Plaintiff - Appellant: Edgar Lim, Lim Law Office, Saint Louis, MO.

For Loretta E. Lynch, Attorney General of the United States, Chester S. Moyer, St. Louis Field Office Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, Defendants - Appellees: Genevieve Kelly, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Immigration Litigation, Civil Division, Washington, DC; Jane Rund, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri, Saint Louis, MO.

Before LOKEN, BEAM, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.

One requirement for naturalization is that the applicant be " a person of good moral character." 8 U.S.C. § 1427(a). The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) determined that

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because Juan Reyes-Soto had violated South Carolina Code § 16-23-410, South Carolina's " Pointing firearm at another person" statute, he had committed an aggravated felony and thus could not establish " good moral character." Reyes-Soto sought review of the decision in district court. The district court[1] reached the same conclusion, that Reyes-Soto could not establish " good moral character." Reyes-Soto appeals on the ground that § 16-23-410 does not have a mens rea requirement, so violation of § 16-23-410 cannot constitute an aggravated felony. We affirm.

I.

Reyes-Soto is a citizen of Mexico and a lawful permanent resident of the United States. In 1993, he was indicted for the felony of pointing a firearm at another person in violation of South Carolina Code § 16-23-410. Reyes-Soto pled guilty and was sentenced to three years imprisonment, suspended upon either one year imprisonment or the payment of $500 plus costs with one year probation. Reyes-Soto selected payment and probation.

Over one decade later, Reyes-Soto filed an N-400 Application for Naturalization with the USCIS. The USCIS denied Reyes-Soto's application, finding that Reyes-Soto's conviction under § 16-23-410 constituted an aggravated felony and that as a person who " at any time has been convicted of an aggravated felony," he was precluded from establishing the " good moral character" required under 8 U.S.C. § 1427(a). Reyes-Soto requested and received a hearing before an immigration officer. The immigration officer denied Reyes-Soto naturalization based on the same reasoning.

Reyes-Soto petitioned the district court for review of the immigration officer's denial pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1421(c). Each party filed a motion for summary judgment. The district court reviewed the USCIS's determination de novo and granted the government's motion for summary judgment, holding that Reyes-Soto's conviction qualified as a crime of violence under 18 U.S.C. § 16(b), one " that naturally involve[s] a person acting in disregard of the risk that physical force might be used against another in committing an offense," and thus an aggravated felony. Reyes-Soto v. Holder, 2014 WL ...


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