'Trump's Court' At Work: SCOTUS' Latest Decision Closes Illegal Immigrant Loophole

By Mark Gruber | Thursday, 19 May 2022 08:30
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Illegal immigrants have little grounds to appeal eviction orders to the federal courts, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The 5-4 decision applies to cases where somebody has been ordered deported but then seeks relief from immigration authorities.

The justices said the immigration authorities’ findings on the facts of the case are absolute and cannot be appealed to federal courts. Courts can still consider cases involving issues of law.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing the majority opinion, said the way Congress wrote the law ruling relief from deportation bars the court from “review of any judgment regarding the granting of relief.” “This plainly includes factual findings,” she wrote.

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The case before the justices involved Pankajkumar Patel, an illegal immigrant who’s been in the U.S. now for almost three decades. About 15 years ago, he tried to legalize, but while doing so, he wrongly marked on a driver’s license application in Georgia that he was an American citizen.

His legalization case was dismissed, and the government then moved to deport him. He agreed he was deportable but claimed leniency in a case before the immigration courts, which are an administrative branch within the Justice Department.

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Mr. Patel claimed he made an innocent error on the driver’s license application. Still, the immigration judge found otherwise, saying Mr. Patel was generally “evasive” in explaining how he’d received citizenship, and that other parts of his story didn’t check out. The judge also saw a pattern, concluding that Mr. Patel had previously forged his means of entering the U.S. on an asylum application.

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Mr. Patel said that was a severe error in fact-finding, and he said that’s the sort of thing the regular independent federal courts should be allowed to study.

The Biden Administration had largely backed Mr. Patel, saying courts should have the freedom to interfere if they see immigration judges messing up cases.

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With the government and the chief plaintiff in agreement, the high court-appointed an amicus, Taylor A.R. Meehan, to challenge the case for the other side, and she prevailed.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch led the dissent, in an opinion scolding his colleagues for turning immigration judges into an unaccountable legal behemoth.

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“Perhaps some would welcome a world like that. But it is hardly the world Congress ordained,” he wrote, joined by the court‘s three Democrat-appointed members.

The case turned on language Congress wrote into the law saying “no court shall have jurisdiction to review” immigration authorities’ decisions on whether to grant relief from deportation.

Justice Barrett said that seemed a categorical bar on checking facts. Still, Justice Gorsuch read it differently, saying the majority “seeks to cram a veritable legislative zoo into one clause of one subparagraph of one subsection of our nation’s vast immigration laws.”

Liberal activists condemned the ruling, with People for the American Way saying it was part of a “scorched-earth campaign against a wide range of our rights and freedoms.”

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