Opinion analysis: Court agrees with immigrants’ view on availability of judicial review of removal orders

Today the Supreme Court issued its decision in the joined cases of Guerrero-Lasprilla vs. Barr and Ovals v. Barr. The court ruled in favor of the non-citizens challenging the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit’s dismissal of their motions to reopen their deportation cases. The 5th Circuit had said it had no ability to review their cases. With the court’s decision, Pedro Pablo Guerrero-Lasprilla and Ruben Ovalles will now be able to continue their legal steps to return to the United States.

8 USC § 1252(a)(2)(C) prohibits federal courts from hearing appeals of decisions of the Immigration Appeals Board by non-nationals convicted of certain crimes who challenge their immigration orders. estrangement. These cases center on section 1252(a)(2)(D), which the court calls the “limited review provision.” This provision allows circuit courts to review “questions of law” raised in BIA appeals against removal orders covered by section 1252(a)(2)(C) when review would otherwise be excluded by this provision.

At the 5th Circuit, there was no doubt that the appellate courts have the ability to review the BIA’s analysis of pure questions of law. But in ruling on the Guerrero-Lasprilla and Ovalles appeals, the 5th Circuit ruled that the limited review provision barred it and all other circuit courts from reviewing the BIA’s application of a standard. legal to undisputed facts.

Today, the Supreme Court struck down the 5th Circuit, holding that appellate courts can review the BIA’s application of the law to undisputed facts. The court remanded the cases to the lower courts to determine whether the BIA erred in finding that the deadline for their individual motions to reopen should have been fairly fixed or extended.

Judge Stephen Breyer wrote the court’s opinion. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Justices Clarence Thomas, joined in part by Justice Samuel Alito, dissented.

The court’s opinion focuses on the phrase “questions of law” in section 1252(a)(2)(D). The court finds no evidence that Congress intended to prohibit circuit court review of whether the established facts meet a legal standard. In the opinion, Breyer analyzes how the court has, in the past, used the expression “questions of law”, finding this previous use entirely compatible with the examination of the application of a legal standard to undisputed facts.

The court finds additional support for its statutory interpretation in three places.

First, the court notes that there is a long-standing presumption in favor of judicial review of administrative action, a presumption that the court has “consistently applied” to immigration laws. Non-citizens would be left without meaningful judicial review if the limited review provision were interpreted to exclude review of BIA decisions wrongly applying a legal standard so long as the BIA considered the correct legal standard to begin with. This presumption, like the majority statutory interpretation, tends to allow circuit courts to review the application of the law to established facts.

Second, the court points to the legal context of section 1252(a)(2)(D). The neighboring “zipper clause,” Section 1252(b)(9), takes its name from the idea that it consolidates all judicial reviews of immigration proceedings into a single action in the appellate court. The court grasps the particular wording of the zipper clause. By its letter, the zipper clause limits judicial review of “all questions of law and fact, including the interpretation and application of constitutional and statutory provisions”, to appeals properly brought under section 1252. The tribunal emphasizes that “questions of … fact” in this context does not include “the application of … [a] status[e].” Congress must have understood that the phrase “matters of law” was the same in the zipper clause and in the limited review provision, the court continued. In either case, the “questions of law” must “include[e] … the application of … legal provisions.

Third and finally, the court examines the history of section 1252(a)(2)(D). Congress enacted the limited review provision in 2005 in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Immigration and Naturalization Service c. Saint Cyr. In this case, the court assessed the effect of 8 USC 1252(a)(2)(C). This provision deprives circuit courts of jurisdiction to review deportation orders of non-nationals convicted of certain crimes. Yet, as Saint Cyr explained, this provision could not deprive circuit courts of the ability to review remand orders in habeas corpus proceedings without raising “substantial constitutional issues”. In today’s decision, the court explains that because Congress created the limited review provision to address this potential constitutional problem, it had to seek to allow judicial review as a sufficient substitute for habeas. . And the Saint Cyr The decision itself specifically addressed the need to protect the courts’ ability to review and correct “misapplication…of laws”.

It is important to emphasize what today’s ruling does not do. That doesn’t change the fact that federal circuit courts still can’t consider factual issues raised by non-nationals convicted of certain crimes who challenge their remand orders. Nor does it change the structure created by Section 1252, which funnels review of remand orders to trial circuit courts and reduces habeas cases in federal district courts.

The dissent, authored by Thomas and joined in part by Alito, revolves around the meaning of the plain text and the statutory purpose. Thomas writes that the court’s interpretation of section 1252(a)(2)(D) contradicts the plain language of the statute and negates the jurisdictional suppression purpose of section 1252(a)(2)( VS). According to Thomas, the phrase “questions of law” cannot reasonably be interpreted to include questions of mixed law and fact present when considering the application of a legal standard to a fact. Otherwise, he reasons, the exception will “swallow the rule”. Thomas’ dissent – in a part not joined by Alito – also calls into question the validity of the principle of the presumption of reviewability. Finally, the two judges concluded that even if the principle of the presumption of controllability is valid, it does not allow the expression “questions of law” to encompass questions of mixed law and fact.

Ultimately, this ruling paves the way for two immigrants to get a federal review of the diligence with which they pursued their reopening petitions. Yet opinion is not limited to this factual scenario. The court determined that Congress had not stripped the circuit courts of the power to review the application of the law to the facts established in dismissal appeals brought by non-citizens with certain criminal convictions, not just appeals removal involving a fair toll. The number of cases falling into this category is unknown.