United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MYRON H. THOMPSON, District Judge.
Defendant Jorge Hernandez-Ramirez pled guilty to unlawful reentry, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a) and (b)(2). At his sentencing on November 20, 2014, the court granted his motion for a downward variance and sentenced him to eight months custody. This opinion explains why.
Born in Mexico, Hernandez-Ramirez first moved to the United States over 25 years ago, when he was 19 years old. Three years later, he was arrested by immigration enforcement for possession with intent to distribute 2.4 kilograms of marijuana, for which he received a 90-day prison sentence and was deported.
Hernandez-Ramirez returned to the United States in the next several years and moved to Alabama. There, he was married and adopted his wife's three young children as his own. He and his wife also had a fourth child. His wife, their four children, and now his grandchildren are all United States citizens. During his time in Alabama, Hernandez-Ramirez worked his way up from lower-level jobs at mechanic shops to starting and owning his own auto-repair business. For 12 years, he operated his own business, employing members of the community and paying taxes. His wife also started a small business, and their two sons joined the United States military. As his son in the Air Force testified, Hernandez-Ramirez focused on working hard and ensuring his children excelled in their education. His family was active in the community and in their church. Three of the four children remain in Alabama while one works in Washington, D.C.
After around two decades in Alabama, Hernandez-Ramirez was arrested for unlawfully reentering the United States. This court sentenced him to probation in early 2013 and put him in the custody of immigration services, but urged the immigration court not to deport him. He was then removed to a holding facility in Louisiana. Despite hiring an immigration lawyer and attempting to avoid deportation, Hernandez-Ramirez was deported from the United States to Mexico.
Soon after returning to Mexico, Hernandez-Ramirez faced threats of violence. A family relation was kidnapped by members of the Gulf cartel, and Hernandez-Ramirez was asked to pay ransom. When Hernandez-Ramirez told the members of the gang that he did not have the money, they threatened to kidnap him. To flee this violence and return to his family, Hernandez-Ramirez reentered the United States less than a year after he was deported.
In April 2014, Hernandez-Ramirez was arrested and pled no contest' to public intoxication in Texas. The police had noticed a vehicle that was reported as stolen and followed that vehicle into a gas-station parking lot. Hernandez-Ramirez was a passenger in the vehicle. The driver had earlier picked up Hernandez-Ramirez to fix a car the driver had at his house. Hernandez-Ramirez denied any knowledge that the car was stolen. The driver corroborated this story, and Hernandez-Ramirez was not charged with theft.
However, after interviewing Hernandez-Ramirez and determining he did not steal the car, the officer claimed that Hernandez-Ramirez was drunk and posed a danger to himself or others. The officer then arrested him for public intoxication. Hernandez-Ramirez disputes that he was drunk or a danger to himself or others, but he pled no contest' and agreed to pay a $91 fine. United States Probation contacted immigration services, and it concluded that Hernandez-Ramirez unlawfully reentered.
Hernandez-Ramirez was back in front of this court in November 2014 for revocation of his previous sentence of probation and new sentencing for unlawful reentry. The court had already accepted a plea bargain on the revocation for a United States Sentencing Guidelines sentence of four months in custody and one year of supervised release to be served consecutively with the sentence to be imposed in the new unlawful-reentry case. The court now turns to explaining the eight-month sentence imposed for the unlawful reentry.
Hernandez-Ramirez's conviction carries a maximum custodial sentence of 20 years. See 8 U.S.C. § 1326(b)(2). As described below, the Guidelines range is 15 to 21 months. The government sought a sentence within this range, and probation recommended 18 months. Hernandez-Ramirez moved for a downward variance to six months.
A. Hernandez-Ramirez's Guidelines Calculations
To determine a defendant's sentence, the court first calculates the total-offense level under the United States Sentencing Guidelines. To do so, the court starts with the base level for the offense and then determines whether any enhancements or reductions apply. The court then calculates the Guidelines sentence given the particular defendant's criminal history.
The base-offense level for reentry of removed aliens, 8 U.S.C. § 1326, is eight points. USSG § 2L1.2(a). Hernandez-Ramirez also received an eight-point enhancement because he had previously committed a drug-trafficking offense, for which he received less than 13 months and for which he did not receive ...