The Supreme Court has ruled against a Georgia man who has spent decades in the United States and faces deportation after checking the wrong box on an application for a driver’s license.
The decision made it more difficult for non-citizens facing deportation proceedings to get a federal court to review factual decisions made by an immigration court regarding relief from deportation. eviction.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett wrote the 5-4 court ruling interpreting the law at issue even more strictly than the federal government.
Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the dissent in the case, joined by the court’s three liberal justices.
“Today, the Court finds that a federal bureaucracy can make a clear factual error, which will result in the removal of an individual from this county, and nothing can be done about it,” Gorsuch wrote. He said the decision will have “disastrous consequences for countless legal immigrants” and noted that each year “thousands” of people seek to obtain a green card “such as students hoping to stay in the country and a skilled worker. sponsored by an employer.
The case involved Pankajkumar S. Patel, an Indian citizen who entered the United States illegally in 1992 and was seeking to become a lawful permanent resident. In 2008, however, while his application to adjust his status was pending, he checked a box on a driver’s license renewal application that falsely claimed he was a US citizen. He was later charged with making a false statement.
Although the charges against him were dropped, the Department of Homeland Security eventually placed him, his wife and one of his sons in deportation proceedings.
DHS denied the request to adjust his status because of the misrepresentation on the driver’s license application. Later, when he appeared before an immigration judge, he argued that he had checked the wrong box by accident. Furthermore, he noted that there was no reason to intentionally tick the wrong box because under Georgian law he was eligible to receive a license without being a citizen because he had an application for lawful permanent residence and a valid work authorization document.
He lost his case before an immigration judge in a decision that was upheld by the Immigration Appeals Board which said he had failed to show that his decision to tick the box was a mistake innocent.
He appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the court said it had no jurisdiction to hear the Immigration Board’s request for review of factual findings.
In Monday’s notice, Barrett noted that Congress has detailed rules under which noncitizens can live in the United States and when those rules are violated, Congress has provided removal procedures. She said “there is room for mercy” for the Attorney General to grant some waiver of removal in certain circumstances, but, she said, “federal courts have a very limited role to play” in the process.
She said that except for “legal and constitutional issues,” Congress had barred federal courts from reviewing the government’s decision to deny a discretionary removal waiver. That bar, she said, includes judicial review of factual findings. “The federal courts have no jurisdiction to review the facts found in a discretionary appeal process” under the law, she said.
Lawyers for Patel and the federal government had argued that some eligibility determinations could be reviewed.
Gorsuch – who has previously sided with liberals when he thinks laws are vague or unevenly applied – strongly criticized the court’s decision.
“It’s no secret that when processing applications, licenses and permits, the government sometimes makes mistakes,” he said.
“In such circumstances, our law has long allowed individuals to ask a court to review the matter and correct any errors,” he said. He said the immigration judge based his decision on the fact that he did not believe Patel had checked the wrong box by mistake and on the mistaken belief that Patel could not have received the permit without saying that he was a citizen. Gorsuch said federal courts should be able to review such claims.
“According to the majority, the courts are powerless to correct bureaucratic errors like these, no matter how serious,” he said. “It’s a catchy conclusion,” he added, and said the case was not a “little sideshow.”
He noted that thousands of people seek a green card every year outside of the context of removal – and that in the last three months of 2021 the government refused more than 13,000 green card applications with almost 790,000 pending.
“With so many requests receiving such abbreviated processing, who can be surprised that DHS sometimes makes serious mistakes,” Gorsuch wrote.
“Until now, the courts could correct mistakes like these,” he added.
This story has been updated with additional background information.