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Gonzalez-Segura v. Sessions

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

February 6, 2018

ERNESTO GONZALEZ-SEGURA, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, III, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas

          Before JONES, SMITH, and PRADO, Circuit Judges.

          EDWARD C. PRADO, Circuit Judge

         Ernesto Gonzalez-Segura was born out of wedlock in Mexico in 1969. His father was a U.S. citizen, and his mother was a Mexican national. Gonzalez- Segura now seeks derivative U.S. citizenship. He believes two documents substantiate his claim: his birth certificate (which a Mexican court revised in 2007) and his father's 1970 holographic will. The district court concluded that he could not as a matter of law prove his derivative citizenship under former Immigration and Nationality Act[1] §§ 301(a)(7), [2] 309(a).[3] We AFFIRM the district court's summary judgment against him.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Gonzalez-Segura was born out of wedlock on June 13, 1969, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. His biological mother is Natalia Segura, a Mexican national. His biological father is Nicolas Gonzalez, a U.S. citizen. He has two siblings from the same parents.

         In 1970, his father drafted a holographic will on the back of a 1963 land conveyance document. Translated from Spanish, the 1970 holographic will stated:

I Nicolas Gonzalez am[] writing this letter to state that I am leaving this property for Natalia Segura and my sons Ernesto, Ruben, and Ernesto Gonzalez paid in full and no debt on this month of August 8, [1970].[4]

         Nicolas's signature followed the note.

         In 1972, his mother married Lorenzo Sandoval. That same year, the couple registered Gonzalez-Segura with the Civil Registry of Rio Bravo in Mexico, listing him as their son. The registration did not acknowledge Gonzalez-Segura's biological father, Nicolas.

         Three years later, Nicolas died.

         In 1990, Gonzalez-Segura obtained legal permanent residency in the United States. Five years later, he was excluded and deported under INA §§ 212(a)(2)(C), 212(a)(6)(B)(i), and 212(a)(7)(A)(i)(I). However, sometime later, he returned to the United States. In 2004, he was removed again after a drug offense conviction.

         In 2007-when he was thirty-five years old-Gonzalez-Segura brought a lawsuit against his mother, Lorenzo Sandoval, and the Civil Registry of Rio Bravo. Gonzalez-Segura sought to have a Tamaulipas court amend his birth certificate to list Nicolas Gonzalez as his biological father. Gonzalez-Segura prevailed in the suit, and the court ordered that his birth certificate list Nicolas Gonzalez as his biological father.

         In October 2013, Gonzalez-Segura filed an N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. He asserted in the application that Nicolas Gonzalez was his biological father, so he was entitled to claim derivative citizenship.

         In October 2014, while in the custody of a Texas county's sheriff's office, United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents apprehended Gonzalez-Segura. He was subsequently indicted for criminal reentry in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326.[5] Soon after, his N-600 Application for Certificate of Citizenship was denied.

         The following month, Gonzalez-Segura filed a petition before the Fifth Circuit to review his citizenship claim. The next month, he filed a motion to transfer the review to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and filed a motion for stay of removal. In January 2015, our Court transferred his claim to the Southern District of Texas and granted his motion for stay of removal.

         In February 2015, Gonzalez-Segura filed his suit in the Southern District of Texas. Over a year later, the district court ruled in favor of the Government on its motion for summary judgment. The court subsequently entered a final judgment dismissing Gonzalez-Segura's claims with prejudice. A few days later, Gonzalez-Segura timely filed a notice of appeal.

         II. JURISDICTION

         The district court had jurisdiction to resolve whether Gonzalez-Segura raised "a genuine issue of material fact about [his] nationality." 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(5)(B). We have jurisdiction to review the final judgment of the district court under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

         III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         A. Reviewing Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant shows that 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). Summary judgment is reviewed de novo, "applying the same standard as . . . the district court." United States v. Lawrence, 276 F.3d 193, 195 (5th Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). "Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant is able to demonstrate that the pleadings, affidavits, and other evidence available to the court establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law." Hightower v. Tex. Hosp. Ass'n, 65 F.3d 443, 447 (5th Cir. 1995) (citations omitted). The panel "must view the evidence introduced and all factual inferences from the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment." Id. "However, the non-movant must go beyond the pleadings and present specific facts indicating a genuine issue for trial in order to avoid summary judgment." Bluebonnet Hotel Ventures, L.L.C. v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 754 F.3d 272, 276 (5th Cir. 2014). The panel may affirm summary judgment on any ground the record supports. Id. (citation omitted).

          B. Reviewing Foreign Law

         The district court's determination of foreign law "must be treated as a ruling on a question of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 44.1. This determination "is subject to de novo review." Access Telecom, Inc. v. MCI Telecomms. Corp., 197 F.3d 694, 713 (5th Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). "In determining foreign law, the court may consider any relevant material or source, including testimony, whether or not submitted by a party or admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 44.1. "[D]ifferences of opinion" regarding "the content, applicability, or interpretation of foreign law do not create a genuine issue as to any material fact under Rule 56." Access Telecom, 197 F.3d at 713 (citation omitted). Thus, summary judgment is generally "appropriate to determine the content of foreign law." Id. (citation omitted).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Legal Framework for Gonzalez-Segura's Citizenship Claim

         1. Overview

         This case involves a complicated web of overlapping foreign and domestic law. The statute governing Gonzalez-Segura's claim to derivative citizenship is the version of the INA in place at the time of his birth. Under that statute, Gonzalez-Segura must establish his paternity by legitimation in order to claim derivative citizenship. The INA also dictates that his claim to legitimation is governed by the laws of Tamaulipas, Mexico-where he resided as a child. Even if he can prove his legitimation under Tamaulipan law, the INA imposes an additional hurdle for claiming derivative citizenship: legitimation must have occurred before Gonzalez-Segura ...


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