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United States v. Vasquez-Benitez

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 26, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
JAIME OMAR VASQUEZ-BENITEZ, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          ROYCE C. LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Pending before the Court is defendant's motion [19], which the Court construes as a motion to compel compliance with Judge Harvey's order [7] setting conditions for defendant's supervised release. The motion tasks the Court with striking the proper balance between the Judiciary's power to order pretrial release of a person charged with illegal reentry under the Bail Reform Act, 18U.S.C. §3142, and the government's concurrent ability to detain that person to effectuate his removal under the Immigration & Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1231. After considering the Bail Reform Act's structure and reasoning from first principles, the Court holds that because the government has chosen to bring criminal charges against defendant, a judicial order under the Bail Reform Act provides the sole avenue for detaining defendant while the charges are pending.

         With the Court's exclusive power comes the responsibility to assure defendant's appearance in court and the safety of the community. See § 3142(c). A new indictment and new evidence requires the Court to determine whether circumstances have sufficiently changed to justify detaining defendant under the Bail Reform Act. To facilitate the Court's reconsideration of defendant's supervised release, the Court orders defendant to appear forthwith for further detention proceedings.

         I. Factual Background

         A month into defendant's civil removal proceedings, the government filed a criminal complaint charging defendant with illegally reentering the United States in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326. Customs officials transferred custody of defendant to the U.S. Marshals Service for a detention hearing before Judge Harvey, who released defendant pending trial. When Acting Chief Judge Boasberg denied the government's request to revoke release, the Marshals transferred defendant back to customs officials for continued removal proceedings. Several days later, defendant filed this motion, which the Court construes as a motion to compel compliance with Judge Harvey's order for supervised release.

         The case was randomly reassigned to this Court after the grand jury returned an indictment. At arraignment, the government urged the Court to revisit defendant's detention status in light of the indictment and new factual evidence. The Court deferred reconsidering defendant's detention status until resolution of this motion.

         II. Discussion

         Defendant's motion asks the Court to referee the incongruity between his current civil detention under the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) and this Court's prior order under the Bail Reform Act (BRA) releasing him pending his criminal trial. In Section II. A of its opinion, the Court concludes the BRA must control the custody of a defendant charged with illegal reentry, regardless of the government's civil authority to hold him under the INA. But having resolved that tension, the Court is mindful of the need to properly wield its control. In Section II.B, considering the defendant's newly returned indictment and the government's recently discovered evidence, the Court decides to accept the BRA's invitation to reopen defendant's detention hearing in light of changed circumstances.

         A. Due to the pending criminal prosecution against the defendant, the BRA must control the terms of his confinement.

         To equipoise the Judiciary's power under the BRA with the Executive's authority under the IN A, this Section engages with the BRA and our Constitution's text, structure, and history. Both routes lead to the same conclusion: the BRA provides the exclusive means of detaining a defendant criminally charged with illegal reentry.

         1. The BRA's specific treatment of removable aliens criminally charged with illegal entry supersedes the INA's general mandate to detain removable aliens.

         Defendant asks this Court to untangle the collision between civil detention of removable aliens under the INA and pretrial release of illegal reentry defendants under the BRA. By contrast, the government presents the INA and BRA as parallel proceedings in which the government can simultaneously detain a removable alien in one while litigating that alien's detention in the other. But unfortunately for the government, the BRA itself acknowledges the potential for the two paths to intersect.

         The Supreme Court's statutory interpretation cases establish "that a precisely drawn, detailed statute pre-empts more general remedies," even where both "literally appl[y]." Brown v. Gen. Servs. Admin., 425 U.S. 820, 834 (1976). This principle applies with added force when the more specific statutory scheme is also more recent. Cf. Credit Suisse Sec. (USA) LLC v. Billing, 551 U.S. 264, 275 (2007). And when the more recent, more specific statutory scheme provides relief where none existed before, courts generally regard the new relief as exclusive. Hink v. United States, 550 U.S. 501, 506 (2007).

         Prior to the initial version of the BRA passed in 1966, courts made pretrial detention decisions through a "dismal" system trading "freedom for money." Patricia M. Wald & Daniel J. Freed, The Bail Reform Act of 1966: A Practitioner's Primer, 52 A.B.A. J. 940, 940 (1966). By enacting the BRA, as amended in 1984, Congress-offered noncapital defendants a statutory right to be released on personal recognizance or unsecured bond absent a judicial determination "that such release will not reasonably assure the ...


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