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CA9 on Citizenship, Standard of Review: Mondaca-Vega v. Holder

April 26, 2013 (1 min read)

Majority: "Who is Petitioner? Is he Reynaldo Carlon Mondaca, a native and citizen of the United States, or is he Salvador Mondaca-Vega, a native and citizen of Mexico? The district court determined that Petitioner is Salvador Mondaca-Vega and, accordingly, that he is not a United States citizen. Reviewing the district court’s findings for clear error and finding none, we now deny the petition for review."

Dissent: "...The majority incorrectly applies clear error review because of its erroneous conclusion that independent review for citizenship cases has been implicitly overruled. On review of the record, because of the numerous findings based on speculation and findings unsupported by evidence, the government failed to prove by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence that Petitioner is a Mexican citizen whose name is Salvador Mondaca-Vega. See, e.g., Lim, 431 F.2d at 200 (holding that “although there was some evidence tending to show that appellant’s family name was Jew rather than Lim, [the government] did not meet its burden of proving [attainment of citizenship through] fraud or error by clear, unequivocal and convincing evidence”). In fact, where, as here, there is “conflicting evidence” it cannot be said that the government has carried its burden to prove by evidence “which does not leave the issue in doubt” that Petitioner is Salvador Mondaca-Vega, and not Reynaldo Mondaca. Schneiderman, 320 U.S. at 158 (internal quotations omitted). Notably, the government did not present any evidence that anyone other than Petitioner has ever claimed to be Reynaldo Mondaca. Even if the proper appellate standard of review here is for clear error, the district court clearly erred in finding that the government met its burden. The majority contends that there was noclear error because “[s]ome of the challenged findings are not clearly erroneous” and that the “errors pertain to inconsequential points.” Maj. at 21, 24. As discussed above, however, the district court’s erroneous findings are numerous and central to the district court’s conclusion that the government proved its case. I do not believe that the remaining findings are sufficient to satisfy the government’s burden to prove by clear, unequivocal, and convincing evidence that Petitioner is Salvador Mondaca-Vega, a Mexican citizen. Thus, Petitioner is who he claims to be, an American citizen, Reynaldo Mondaca. I would GRANT the petition. Therefore, I dissent."

- Mondaca-Vega v. Holder, Apr. 25, 2013.