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U.S. Supreme Court Sides with Immigrants’ Rights to Challenge Deportation Orders in Lower Courts


The U.S. Supreme Court recently made an important decision that will ultimately make it easier for immigrants to challenge deportation decisions, even if they have a criminal record. In consolidating two important immigration cases, Guerrero-Lasprilla v. Barr and Ovalles v. Barr, the Court looked at whether the lower courts (i.e. courts of appeals) are required to review deportation decisions under the Immigration and Nationality Act when those decisions involve questions concerning whether the time limit to challenge removal should be extended.

The Cases

In each of the cases, both immigrants were ordered to be removed by Immigration Judges after being convicted of committing drug crimes, and left the U.S. Afterwards, even though they had missed the 90-day window allotted under the Immigration and Nationality Act to request that the Board of Immigration Appeals reopen its decisions in light of a change in circumstances and/or newly discovered evidence, they argued that the time limit should be tolled because they had only become eligible for reconsideration due to various decisions that occurred years after their removal. Their requests were denied by the Board, which found that they had failed to demonstrate “due diligence” in their motion to reopen the decisions for reconsideration.

The Fifth Circuit Denies, Finding It Lacks Jurisdiction to Review

Both appealed the Board’s decisions to the Fifth Circuit, which denied their requests, claiming that deciding whether they had engaged in due diligence was a factual question, and the Immigration and Nationality Act limited the scope of review, only allowing the courts to consider “constitutional claims or questions of law.”

The Supreme Court’s Reasoning, Part I: Appling A Legal Standard to Undisputed Fact Is a Question of Law

The Supreme Court declared that the issue before the Court was whether “questions of law” include the application of a legal standard to established, undisputed facts. Because the Court held that it does, it found that the Fifth Circuit had erred. Specifically, in these cases, the facts were not in dispute, but rather, whether the legal standard was satisfied. In addition, the majority opinion pointed out that there is nothing in the statute which suggests that “questions of law” do not include the application of law to settled facts.

The Supreme Court’s Reasoning, Part II: The Presumption of Reviewability Includes Review of Petitions by Aliens Challenging Removal Orders

The majority opinion also reiterated that it is a “familiar principle of statutory construction” to favor “judicial review of administrative action,” elaborating that this presumption has always been applied to immigration statutes and it can only be overcome by “clear and convincing evidence of congressional intent to preclude judicial review.” The Court also pointed out that the Constitution protected the writ of habeas corpus and Congress made clear that it sought a substitute for habeas in the courts of appeals. Numerous courts have also specifically held that habeas review includes review of petitions by aliens challenging removal orders.

The Significance of the Decision: Contact Our Experience Immigration Defense Attorneys Today

This decision is extremely significant in terms of limiting the ability for the current administration to quickly remove aliens convicted of certain crimes without providing them with their right to judicial review first. Lower courts are now obligated to review how immigration agencies applied the law in deportation cases, and those who have criminal convictions now have more opportunities to challenge agency deportation decisions in general.

If you or a loved one have any criminal defense or immigration questions or concerns, contact North Carolina immigration attorney Rashad Hauter today for immediate, experienced assistance.



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