Friday, September 10, 2010
Court Upholds Sentence Prohibiting Alien’s ‘Illegal’ Reentry to U.S.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The First District Court of Appeal yesterday upheld a trial court’s order prohibiting a defendant convicted of drug offenses from reentering the United States illegally if he was deported.
Div. Four said Alameda Superior Court Judge Gloria Rhynes did not exceed her jurisdiction when she imposed the condition as part of Laveitigaotumua Laufasa’s sentence because the requirement merely tracked existing federal requirements.
Laufasa was arrested in August 2009 after a search at Oakland International Airport revealed that he was carrying approximately two pounds of crystal methamphetamine hidden in the pockets of spandex shorts he wore under his clothes.
A jury convicted Laufasa of one felony count of transportation of methamphetamine for sale and one felony count of possession of methamphetamine for sale, and found true for the purposes of a sentencing enhancement that he possessed more than 57 grams for sale. Laufasa also admitted the existence of a prior strike.
The probation department reported that Laufasa was not a U.S. citizen and that the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been so notified. The department also recommended that the trial court order Laufasa not to return to the United States illegally if he was deported.
Rhynes, after dismissing Laufasa’s motion to dismiss the prior strike, sentenced him to the upper term of four years in prison on the transportation count, and doubled that to eight years because of the strike. She also imposed a six-year stayed sentence on the possession count.
The judge then accepted the probation department’s recommendation and ordered Laufasa not to return to the United States illegally if deported, telling him: “You are only to return to the United States if you do so legally, sir.”
Laufasa sought review, arguing that Rhynes lacked authority to impose such a condition, but the Court of Appeal rejected the contention in an opinion by Justice Patricia K. Sepulveda.
Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in De Canas v. Bica (1976) 424 U.S. 351, the justice conceded that the power to regulate immigration is “unquestionably exclusively” a federal power. She also noted that state regulation affecting the determination of who should or should not be admitted into the country, or placing conditions under which a legal entrant may remain, violated the exclusive power over immigration and deportation constitutionally vested solely in the federal government, as pointed out in In re Adolfo M. (1990) 225 Cal.App.3d 1225.
But Sepulveda wrote that the opinion in Adolfo M. made clear that the exclusive federal power did not preempt every state activity affecting aliens, and noted that both the Ninth and Tenth U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal had upheld the imposition of probation conditions prohibiting a person from entering the country unless legally authorized to do so.
“Defendant claims that the trial court’s order would ‘permit the state court to determine the legality of [defendant’s] entry into the United States and potentially punish appellant for a violation of federal law,’ ”she commented. “To the contrary, ordering that defendant not enter the country illegally ‘simply echoes existing federal requirements pertaining to immigration and the reentry of those subject to prior deportation proceedings.’ ”
Presiding Justice Ignazio J. Ruvolo and Justice Timothy A. Reardon joined Sepulveda in her opinion.
The case is People v. Laufasa, A127159.
Copyright 2010, Metropolitan News Company