JUNIOR NATHANIEL RICKETTS a/k/a Junior Mohammed Ricketts a/k/a Paul Milton Miles, Appellant
ATTORNEY GENERAL UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Submitted Under Third Circuit L.A.R. 34.1(a) July 6, 2018
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of New York (D.C. No. 1-15-cv-00329) Hon. Margo K.
Brodie District Judge
M. Weiss Williams & Connolly Counsel for Appellant
Benjamin M. Moss Eric R. Quick United States Department of
Justice Office of Immigration Litigation Counsel for Appellee
Before: JORDAN, GREENAWAY, JR., and FISHER, Circuit Judges
JORDAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
alien faces removal under the Immigration and Nationality
Act, one potential defense is that the alien is not an alien
at all but is actually a national of the United States. 8
U.S.C. § 1252(b)(5). An individual contesting a final
order of removal has the opportunity to raise that defense in
a petition for review and, if it appears to the appellate
court considering the petition that a genuine factual
question exists as to the petitioner's nationality, that
court must transfer the proceeding to the district court
where the petitioner resides, for a nationality determination
to be made. Id. § 1252(b)(5)(B).
case requires us to address whether an appeal from a
nationality determination following such a transfer must be
taken to the appellate court that typically hears appeals
from the district court making the determination, or whether
jurisdiction lies with the appellate court that transferred
the case to the district court in the first place. Both
parties urge us to conclude that appeals from nationality
determinations made under § 1252(b)(5)(B) must be to the
court of appeals for the circuit that embraces the transferee
district court. We agree. The pertinent statutory language
makes it clear that Congress intended for hearings conducted
pursuant to § 1252(b)(5)(B) to be treated as new
proceedings separate from the underlying petitions for
review. We thus lack jurisdiction to entertain an appeal from
a nationality determination made by the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
M. Ricketts petitioned this Court to review the Board of
Immigration Appeals' denial of his motions to reopen his
removal proceedings, which had resulted in a final order of
removal. One of the defenses to removal that
Ricketts has raised is that he is in reality a United States
citizen. After determining that there were genuine issues of
material fact as to his nationality, we granted a joint
motion by Ricketts and the government to transfer the
nationality dispute to the United States District Court for
the Eastern District of New York - the district where
Ricketts resided at the relevant time - pursuant to 8 U.S.C.
§ 1252(b)(5)(B), so that a determination of his
nationality could be made.
the District Court conducted an evidentiary hearing, it
decided that Ricketts had "failed to demonstrate by a
preponderance of the evidence that he is a citizen of the
United States." Ricketts v. Att'y Gen., No.
15-329, 2016 WL 3676419, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. July 7, 2016). It
found instead that the "evidence overwhelmingly
establishe[d]" that he is a Jamaican national who
appropriated the identity of a United States citizen.
Id. at *7.
course dissatisfied with the District Court's
determination, Ricketts filed a notice of appeal, seeking
review by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit. The District Court, however, transmitted the appeal
to this Court, not to the Second Circuit. After receiving the
case file from the District Court, our Clerk of Court
instructed the parties to address whether Ricketts's
appeal was properly transmitted to us or whether the appeal
should be transferred to the Second Circuit. In response, the
government filed a motion to transfer the appeal to the
Second Circuit but requested that we retain jurisdiction over
Ricketts's consolidated petitions for review. Ricketts
also requested that we transfer his appeal to the Second
interpretation of the statutory scheme Congress created to
address disputes over nationality must begin, as with any
matter of statutory interpretation, with the plain text of
the relevant statutes. Henson v. Santander Consumer USA
Inc., 137 S.Ct. 1718, 1721 (2017); Cazun v.
Att'y Gen., 856 F.3d 249, 255 (3d Cir. 2017).
"[O]ur inquiry into the meaning of [a] statute's
text ceases when the statutory language is unambiguous and
the statutory ...