Justia Immigration Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Supreme Court
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The named plaintiffs, aliens who were detained under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6) after reentering the United States illegally, filed a putative class action, alleging that aliens detained under section 1231(a)(6) are entitled to bond hearings after six months’ detention. The district court certified a class of similarly situated plaintiffs and enjoined the government from detaining the class members under section 1231(a)(6) for more than 180 days without providing each a bond hearing. The Ninth Circuit affirmed.The Supreme Court reversed. INA section 1252(f )(1) deprived the district courts of jurisdiction to entertain aliens’ requests for class-wide injunctive relief. Section 1252(f )(1) generally strips lower courts of jurisdiction or authority to “enjoin or restrain the operation of ” certain INA provisions. Section 1252(f )(1)’s one exception allows lower courts to “enjoin or restrain the operation of ” the relevant statutory provisions “with respect to the application of such provisions to an individual alien against whom proceedings under such part have been initiated.” Here, both district courts entered injunctions that “enjoin or restrain the operation” of section 1231(a)(6) because they require officials to take actions that (in the government’s view) are not required by 1231(a)(6) and to refrain from actions that are allowed; the injunctions do not fall within the exception for individualized relief. Section 1252(f )(1) refers to “an individual,” not “individuals.” View "Garland v. Gonzalez" on Justia Law

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Arteaga-Martinez, a citizen of Mexico, was removed and reentered the U.S. His earlier removal order was reinstated and he was detained under 8 U.S.C. 1231(a). Arteaga-Martinez applied for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture. An asylum officer determined he had established a reasonable fear of persecution or torture if returned to Mexico. DHS referred him for withholding-only proceedings before an immigration judge. After being detained for four months, Arteaga-Martinez filed a habeas corpus petition, challenging his continued detention without a bond hearing. The government conceded that Arteaga-Martinez would be entitled to a bond hearing after six months of detention based on circuit precedent. The district court ordered a bond hearing. The Third Circuit affirmed. At the bond hearing, the Immigration Judge authorized his release pending resolution of his application for withholding of removal.The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Section 1231(a)(6) does not require the government to provide noncitizens, detained for six months, with bond hearings in which the government bears the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that a noncitizen poses a flight risk or a danger to the community. Section 1231(a)(6) “does not permit indefinite detention” but “limits an alien’s post-removal-period detention to a period reasonably necessary to bring about that alien’s removal from the United States”; it allows the government to provide bond hearings but does not require them. The Court remanded for consideration of Arteaga-Martinez’s alternative theory. View "Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez" on Justia Law

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Patel, who entered the United States illegally in the 1990s, applied for adjustment of status, 8 U.S.C. 1255. Because Patel had previously checked a box on a Georgia driver’s license application falsely stating that he was a U.S. citizen, USCIS denied the application. Section 1182(a)(6)(C)(ii)(I) renders inadmissible a noncitizen who falsely represents himself to be a citizen for any legal benefit. In removal proceedings based on his illegal entry, Patel renewed his adjustment of status request, arguing that he had mistakenly checked the “citizen” box and lacked the subjective intent necessary to violate the federal statute.The BIA dismissed Patel’s appeal from a subsequent removal order. The Eleventh Circuit held that it lacked jurisdiction to consider Patel’s claim. Section 1252(a)(2)(B)(i) prohibits judicial review of “any judgment regarding the granting of relief” under 1255, except “constitutional claims” or “questions of law.” The court concluded that the determinations of whether Patel had testified credibly and of subjective intent each qualified as an unreviewable judgment.The Supreme Court affirmed. Federal courts lack jurisdiction to review facts found as part of discretionary-relief proceedings under section 1255 and the other provisions enumerated in section 1252(a)(2)(B)(i). This case largely turns on the scope of the word “judgment." A “judgment” does not necessarily involve discretion, nor does context indicate that only discretionary judgments are covered by section 1252(a)(2)(B)(i). Using the word "judgment" to describe the fact determinations at issue here "is perfectly natural.” The Court rejected arguments that the statute is ambiguous enough to trigger the presumption that Congress did not intend to foreclose judicial review. View "Patel v. Garland" on Justia Law

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reinstated the prior removal orders of aliens who were removed from the U.S. and reentered without authorization. Each alien sought to prevent DHS's execution of those orders based on fear of returning to their home country. While their withholding-only proceedings were pending, DHS detained the aliens, who sought release on bond. DHS argued that because the aliens were detained under 8 U.S.C. 1231, which mandates detention when a removal order is administratively final, not section 1226, which governs detention pending a decision on whether the alien "is to be removed," they were not entitled to bond hearings. The Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of the aliens.The Supreme Court reversed. Section 1231, not 1226, governs the detention of aliens subject to reinstated orders of removal. Here, each alien was “ordered removed” by a valid removal order that was reinstated from the original date under section 1231(a)(5) and was “administratively final.” The possibility of a determination that DHS cannot remove an alien to the specific country designated in the removal order does not render the question of whether the alien is to be removed “pending.” If an immigration judge grants withholding of removal, that order remains in full force; DHS retains the authority to remove the alien to any other authorized country.The inclusion of the withholding provision in section 1231 illustrates how withholding-only relief fits within the removal process. Section 1226 applies before an alien goes through the removal proceedings and obtains a decision; 1231 applies after. Aliens who have not been ordered removed are less likely to abscond because they have a chance of being found admissible, while aliens who have already been ordered removed are generally inadmissible and have already demonstrated a willingness to violate the terms of a removal order. View "Johnson v. Guzman-Chavez" on Justia Law

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Sanchez, a citizen of El Salvador, entered the U.S. unlawfully in 1997 and obtained Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in 2001. TPS allows foreign nationals from countries designated by the government as having unusually bad or dangerous conditions to temporarily live and work in the U.S. In 2014, Sanchez unsuccessfully applied under 8 U.S.C. 1255 to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. Section 1255 provides a way for a “nonimmigrant”—a foreign national lawfully present in this country on a temporary basis—to obtain adjustment of status to LPR. The Third Circuit agreed that Sanchez’s unlawful entry precluded his eligibility for LPR status under section 1255, notwithstanding his TPS.A unanimous Supreme Court affirmed. Section 1255 provides that eligibility for LPR status generally requires an “admission,” the lawful entry of the alien into the U.S. after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer. Sanchez did not enter lawfully and his TPS does not eliminate the effect of that unlawful entry. Section 1254a(f)(4) provides that a TPS recipient who applies for permanent residency will be treated as having nonimmigrant status, the status traditionally and generally needed to invoke the section 1255 LPR process, but that provision does not address 1255’s separate admission requirement. Lawful status and admission are distinct concepts and establishing the former does not establish the latter. There are immigration categories in which individuals have nonimmigrant status without admission, so when Congress confers nonimmigrant status for purposes of 1255, but says nothing about admission, the Court has no basis for finding an unlawful entrant eligible to become an LPR. View "Sanchez v. Mayorkas" on Justia Law

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Alcaraz-Enriquez and Dai each appeared before an immigration judge (IJ), requesting that he not be returned to his country of origin. For Alcaraz-Enriquez, the IJ had to determine whether Alcaraz-Enriquez had committed a disqualifying “particularly serious crime” based on a California conviction. The IJ considered his probation report, which detailed a serious domestic violence incident, and Alcaraz-Enriquez’s own testimony, admitting that he hit his girlfriend, allegedly in defense of his daughter. The IJ found Alcaraz-Enriquez ineligible for relief. The BIA affirmed. Dai testified that he and his family had suffered past persecution by Chinese officials and expected future persecution upon return. Dai initially failed to disclose that his wife and daughter had returned voluntarily to China since accompanying him to the U.S. When confronted, Dai told the “real story.” The IJ denied relief. The BIA affirmed. In both cases the Ninth Circuit granted relief, noting that neither the IJ nor the BIA made an explicit “adverse credibility determination” under 8 U.S.C. 1158(b)(1)(B)(iii), 1231(b)(3)(C), 1229a(c)(4)(C). The Supreme Court vacated. A reviewing court must accept administrative findings as “conclusive unless any reasonable adjudicator would be compelled to conclude to the contrary.” In neither case did the Ninth Circuit consider the possibility that the BIA implicitly found the presumption of credibility rebutted. The BIA expressly adopted the IJ’s decision, which noted that Alcaraz-Enriquez’s story had changed, a factor the statute specifically identifies as relevant to credibility. In Dai’s case, the BIA also adopted the IJ’s decision, which discussed specific problems with Dai’s demeanor, candor, and internal inconsistency. The statute requires the noncitizen to satisfy the trier of fact on credibility, persuasiveness, and the burden of proof. Even if the BIA treats a noncitizen’s testimony as credible, the agency need not find such evidence persuasive or sufficient to meet the burden of proof. View "Garland v. Dai" on Justia Law

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Palomar-Santiago, a Mexican national living in the U.S, was convicted in California state court of felony DUI in 1988. Lower courts then understood that conviction to be an “aggravated felony” subjecting a noncitizen to removal, 8 U.S.C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii). Palomar-Santiago was removed following a hearing and a waiver of his right to appeal. In 2017, Palomar-Santiago was found in the U.S and indicted for unlawful reentry after removal. Section 1326, criminalizing unlawful reentry, provides that a collateral challenge to the underlying deportation order may proceed only if the noncitizen first demonstrates that “any administrative remedies that may have been available” were exhausted, “the opportunity for judicial review” was lacking, and “the order was fundamentally unfair.” Palomar-Santiago argued that his prior removal order was invalid in light of the 2004 “Leocal” holding, that felony DUI is not an aggravated felony. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the charges.A unanimous Supreme Court reversed. Each of the statutory requirements of section 1326(d) is mandatory; defendants charged with unlawful reentry “may not” challenge their underlying removal orders “unless” they “demonstrat[e]” each of three conditions. The first two requirements are not satisfied just because a noncitizen was removed for an offense that should not have rendered him removable. An immigration judge’s error on the merits does not excuse the noncitizen’s failure to comply with a mandatory exhaustion requirement if further administrative review, and then judicial review if necessary, could fix that error. Section 1326(d) unambiguously forecloses Palomar-Santiago’s interpretation. View "United States v. Palomar-Santiago" on Justia Law

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Nonpermanent resident aliens ordered removed from the U.S. may obtain discretionary relief if, among other things, they can establish their continuous presence in the country for at least 10 years, 8 U.S.C. 1229b(b)(1). The “stop-time rule” included in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) provides that the period of continuous presence “shall be deemed to end . . . when the alien is served a notice to appear” in removal proceedings; “notice to appear” is defined as “written notice . . . specifying” certain information, such as the charges and the time and place at which the removal proceedings will be held. A notice that omits any required information does not trigger the stop-time rule.The government ordered the removal of Niz-Chavez and sent him a document containing the charges against him. Weeks later, it sent another document, providing the time and place of his hearing. The government argued that because the documents collectively specified all statutorily required information for “a notice to appear,” Niz-Chavez’s continuous presence in the country stopped when he was served with the second document.The Supreme Court held that a notice to appear sufficient to trigger the stop-time rule is a single document containing all the information about an individual’s removal hearing specified in section 1229(a)(1). In addition to the statute’s use of the article, “a” and the singular noun, “notice,” its structure and history support requiring the government to issue a single notice containing all the required information. Administrative inconvenience never justifies departing from a statute’s clear text. View "Niz-Chavez v. Garland" on Justia Law

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In removal proceedings for entering and remaining in the country unlawfully, Pereida sought to establish his eligibility for cancellation of removal under 8 U.S.C. 1229a(c)(4), 1229b(b)(1). Eligibility requires certain nonpermanent residents to prove that they have not been convicted of specified criminal offenses. While his proceedings were pending, Pereida was convicted of a crime under Nebraska law. Analyzing whether Pereida’s conviction constituted a “crime involving moral turpitude” that would bar his eligibility for cancellation of removal, the IJ found that the Nebraska statute stated several separate crimes, some of which involved moral turpitude and one—conducting business without a required license—which did not. Because Nebraska had charged Pereida with using a fraudulent social security card to obtain employment, the IJ concluded that Pereida’s conviction likely constituted a crime involving moral turpitude. The BIA and the Eighth Circuit upheld the denial of relief.The Supreme Court affirmed. An alien seeking to cancel a lawful removal order bears the burden of showing he has not been convicted of a disqualifying offense. The alien has not carried that burden when the record shows he was convicted under a statute listing multiple offenses, some of which are disqualifying, and the record is ambiguous as to which crime formed the basis of his conviction. The Nebraska statute is divisible, listing multiple crimes, some of which are crimes of moral turpitude. In cases involving divisible statutes, judges determine which of the offenses an individual committed by employing a “modified” categorical approach, reviewing the record to discover which of the enumerated alternatives played a part in the defendant’s conviction. Just as evidentiary gaps work against the government in criminal cases where it bears the burden, they work against the alien seeking relief from a lawful removal order. View "Pereida v. Wilkinson" on Justia Law

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Every 10 years, the U.S. undertakes an “Enumeration” of its population “in such Manner” as Congress “shall by Law direct.” The Secretary of Commerce must “take a decennial census of population . . . in such form and content as he may determine,” 13 U.S.C. 141(a), and report to the President, who must transmit to Congress a “statement showing the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed, as ascertained” under the census, 2 U.S.C. 2a(a), applying the “method of equal proportions” formula to the population counts to calculate the number of House seats for each state.In July 2020, the President issued a memorandum to the Secretary, announcing a policy of excluding from the apportionment base aliens who are not in lawful immigration status. The President ordered the Secretary “to provide information permitting the President, to the extent practicable, to exercise the President’s discretion to carry out the policy.”The Supreme Court vacated an injunction, prohibiting the Secretary from including the information needed to implement the President’s memorandum and directed dismissal of the lawsuits for lack of jurisdiction. The threatened impact of an unlawful apportionment on congressional representation and federal funding does not establish a “legally cognizable injury.” Any chilling effect from the memorandum dissipated upon the conclusion of the census. The Secretary has not altered census operations in a concrete manner that will predictably change the count. Any prediction of how the Executive Branch might eventually implement the general statement of policy is conjecture. It is unclear how many aliens have administrative records that would allow the Secretary to avoid impermissible estimation; whether the Census Bureau can timely match its records to census data; and to what extent the President might direct the Secretary to “reform the census” to implement his general policy. The plaintiffs suffer no concrete harm from the challenged policy, which does not require them “to do anything or to refrain from doing anything.” View "Trump v. New York" on Justia Law