Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Justos: Naturalization Form Containing Adjudicator's Notes Was Admissible and Did Not Violate Confrontation Clause

In United States v. Santos, No. 18-14529 (Jan. 9, 2020) (Hull, Rosenbaum, Tjoflat), the Court affirmed the defendant's convictions for naturalization fraud.

The Court rejected the defendant's argument that it was error for the court to admit a naturalization application form containing written notations made by the interviewing immigration officer who did not testify at trial.  The Court first found that the form was admissible non-hearsay as an adopted admission by an opposing party, because the applicant adopted the form by signing it at the end of the interview.  The Court also found that the form was admissible under the public records exception to hearsay because it was part of the A-file, immigration officers routinely complete the form during non-adversarial interviews with applicants, and the primary purpose of the form is to administrate the naturalization process, not criminal prosecution.  The Court also rejected the defendant's Confrontation Clause challenge because the application form was not testimonial.  It was a public record produced as a matter of administrative routine for the primary purpose of determination eligibility for naturalization, not for the purpose of criminal prosecution.

The Court also found no abuse of discretion by permitting the government to elicit testimony about the inculpatory portion of a post-Miranda statement but prohibiting the defendant from eliciting further testimony about the exculpatory portion.  The rule of completeness did not apply because the exculpatory part of the statement did not explain or clarify the inculpatory part of the statement.

Finally, the Court found that there was sufficient evidence to support his conviction for unlawfully procuring naturalization, finding that his false statements were knowingly made and material to procuring naturalization.