Court Rules That ICE Attorney Who Forged Document Is Subject To Liability

For Immediate Release

Aug. 15, 2018


Matt Adams, NWIRP: 206-957-8611,


Seattle, WA.- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a precedent-setting ruling in favor of Ignacio Lanuza, an immigrant seeking damages against an attorney with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who intentionally submitted a forged document in immigration proceedings in order to bar Mr. Lanuza from applying for lawful permanent resident status. The ruling by the Ninth Circuit means that the case will now return to district court to determine the amount of damages Mr. Lanuza is entitled to. Mr. Lanuza was represented by Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) before the Court of Appeals.


Mr. Lanuza was originally ordered deported after an Immigration Judge, relying on the fabricated document submitted by ICE attorney Jonathan Love, determined that Mr. Lanuza was ineligible to apply for lawful status. The Board of Immigration Appeals sustained the removal (deportation) order. The forged document was discovered only after Mr. Lanuza hired a new attorney, Hilary Han, to file a petition for review to the federal court of appeals. Mr. Han, demonstrated that the removal order was based on fabricated evidence and successfully moved to reopen the proceedings. The immigration court then approved Mr. Lanuza’s application for lawful permanent residence.


Mr. Lanuza then filed a complaint in the federal district court seeking to hold Mr. Love individually liable for violating his constitutional rights. In 2015, the district court granted Love’s motion to dismiss, finding that binding case law prevented immigrants from obtaining damages against individual federal officers for constitutional violations that occur in immigration proceedings. The Court of Appeals rejected the district court’s finding, making clear for the first time that there is no categorical bar to obtaining damages for constitutional violations that occur in removal proceedings.


Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw, on behalf of a unanimous Ninth Circuit panel, wrote, “we will not allow an officer of the immigration court to cloak himself in the government’s protection when he commits the crimes of forgery and perjury. Indeed, holding accountable an immigration official and officer of the court who engages in domestic criminal activity supports the enforcement of our immigration law in a manner consistent with the intent of the political branches.” The Court further explained that “failing to provide a narrow remedy for such an egregious constitutional violation would tempt others to do the same and would run afoul of our mandate to enforce the Constitution.”


Upon learning of the Court’s decision, Mr. Lanuza said, “I’m very happy, to me this shows that there can be justice, we fought a long time for this.”


“One of the most important aspects of the ruling is that it now makes clear that federal officials may be held accountable for constitutional violations against persons in deportation proceedings,” said Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project. “As the Court noted, the government never took any action against the ICE attorney until our client filed this lawsuit.”


The Court’s decision can be found here.