Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Case of the Day: United States v. Abarca, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 101671 (S.D. Cal. June 15, 2018)


Defendant was accused of entering the United States illegally through a caravan carrying 18 persons crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Defendant claimed that there was selective prosecution based on national origin, as only five persons from Mexico and Central America were prosecuted while others, which included three Indian nationals, were not prosecuted.

The court dismissed the claim. The court found the defendants, who had the burden to overcome the presumption that a prosecutor has not violated equal protection, failed to demonstrate the prosecution treated similarly situated persons differently. The court first found the defendants had to draw from the overall pattern of prosecution, rather than the prosecution of the specific caravan on which the defendants were on board. The court further found the defendants failed to establish the discriminatory motive, noting many Central Americans in different occasions were not prosecuted either. The court then denied the defendants' request for discovery.


Only tangentially related to Asia, but figured this was a good case to discuss in the current times when illegal immigration is the topic of the day. This case reminds me of Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the case from the previous round of heightened national security concerns. Like Iqbal, the defendants here face an impossible challenge: find a way to collect information from the government, whose discriminatory intent--at least at the top level--appears fairly clear.

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