During May and June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court issued 3 decisions regarding federal immigration law, each of which severely limits the rights of immigrants to challenge the decisions of government agencies.
Particularly concerning is Court’s decision in Patel v. Garland, issued on May 16, 2022 which holds that immigrants can not dispute inaccurate factual determinations by government agencies in Federal Court.
However, we will start with the 2 decisions that the Supreme Court issued on June 13, 2022.
This case involves a citizen of Mexico who was deported from the U.S. in July 2012, but because of fear for his life, reentered the U.S. without inspection 2 months later. An asylum officer determined that he had established a reasonable fear of persecution and he was referred to withholding of removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge.
After being detained by the DHS for 4 months, he filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus challenging his detention without a bond hearing under both statutory and constitutional grounds. DHS conceded that he would be entitled to a bond hearing after 6 months of detention unless he posed a flight risk or a danger to the community. Both the Federal District Court Judge and the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in his favor. The Immigration Judge then authorized his release pending resolution of his pending application for withholding of removal.
However, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court held that the law as stated in 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6) does not require DHS to provide noncitizens like Mr. Arteaga-Martinez with a bond hearing after 6 months of confinement. The Supreme Court left it to the lower Courts to determine whether this law violates the U.S. Constitution.
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In a companion case involving prolonged detention, also decided on June 13, 2022, the Supreme Court held that the law at 8 U.S.C. 1252(f)(1) bars class-wide injunctive relief. The majority 6-3 opinion states that this section of the law “generally prohibits lower courts from entering injunctions that order federal officials to take or refrain from taking actions to enforce, implement, or otherwise carry out the specified statutory provisions.”
The Majority Opinion
This decision has most far-reaching effect on limiting the rights of immigrants, and the 5-4 majority decision was vigorously contested by Justice Gorsuch in his dissent.
However, after applying filing for adjustment of status, Mr. Patel checked a box on his application for a Georgia Driver’s License falsely stating that he was a U.S. citizen even though this was not a requirement to get a driver’s license.
Several years later, the government placed Mr. Patel and his wife under removal proceedings. The Patels then renewed their applications for adjustment of status.
Although Mr. Patel testified that he had simply checked the wrong box of the driver’s license application, the Immigration Judge did not believe him. The Judge ruled that he had made a false claim to U.S. citizenship, and was, therefore, ineligible to adjust his status. He ordered Mr. and Mrs. Patel deported. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the Judge’s decision.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to review Mr. Patel’s case.
Both Mr. Patel’s attorneys and the government’s attorneys disagreed with the 11th Circuit’s decision.
However, the Supreme Court appointed an attorney as amicusto defend the decision of the Circuit Court. Contrary to the opinions of both parties to the lawsuit, the attorney interpreted the word “judgment” in Section 1252(a)(2)(B)(i) in a very expansive way.
This section of law strips courts of jurisdiction to re- view “any judgment regarding the granting of relief” under Section 1255 which relates to adjustment of status. Amicus maintains that the word judgment means any authoritative decision. Factual findings fall within this category, amicus says, so the courts lack jurisdiction to review them.
The majority of the Supreme Court ultimately agreed with this interpretation in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
The majority opinion concluded that, by statute, Congress has “sharply circumscribed judicial review of the discretionary review process,” allowing review of immigration judges’ legal conclusions but not findings of fact.
“With an exception for legal and constitutional questions, Congress has barred judicial review of the Attorney General’s decisions denying discretionary relief from removal. We must decide how far this bar extends—specifically, whether it precludes judicial review of factual findings that underlie a denial of relief. It does.”
The majority opinion dismissed other interpretations of the law in question by stating that “in contrast to amicus’ straightforward interpretation, both the Government’s and Patel’s arguments read like elaborate efforts to avoid the most natural meaning of the text.”
The Dissenting Opinion
“It is no secret that when processing applications, licenses, and permits the government sometimes makes mistakes. Often, they are small ones — a misspelled name, a misplaced application. But sometimes a bureaucratic mistake can have life-changing consequences. Our case is such a case. An immigrant to this country applied for legal residency. The government rejected his application. Allegedly, the government did so based on a glaring factual error. In cir-cumstances like that, our law has long permitted individuals to petition a court to consider the question and correct any mistake.”
“Not anymore. Today, the Court holds that a federal bureaucracy can make an obvious factual error, one that will result in an individual’s removal from this country, and nothing can be done about it. No court may even hear the case. It is a bold claim promising dire consequences for countless lawful immigrants. And it is such an unlikely assertion of raw administrative power that not even the agency that allegedly erred, nor any other arm of the Executive Branch, endorses it. Today’s majority acts on its own to shield the government from the embarrassment of having to correct even its most obvious errors.”
Supreme Court Immigration – Additional Resources
- Supreme Court Immigration Decisions
- Immigration Law: Key Supreme Court Cases
- SCOTUSblog – Independent News & Analysis on the Supreme Court
- Immigration Review Podcasts – Weekly Case Summaries