Can a federal court review a decision reached by an immigration judge when it comes to deportation?
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The US Supreme Court recently issued an important immigration decision. The name of the case is Patel v. Garland.
This is a case involving deportation.
Specifically, it involves when a immigration judge reaches a factual decision in a case, and the question is can a federal court, which would be an Article 3 judge, a real judge, a federal judge who's appointed for life, when you get to federal court, can federal judges review the decisions of an immigration judge?
Of course, immigration judges are appointed by the President. They serve as part of the Department of Justice and they are quite frankly part of the deportation machine.
The issue presented in Patel is whether or not a real federal judge can review that decision from the immigration judge.
In this case, Mr. and Mrs. Patel entered the United States without inspection in the 1990s.
Around 2007, they decided to apply for a green card.
And while they were going through the green card process at USCIS, Mr. Patel went down to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Georgia and he applied for a driver's license.
Apparently, when he applied for this driver's license, he checked a box that indicated that he was a US citizen.
But he also included the fact that he had an alien registration number. Of course, no US citizen has an alien registration number, so while the application might have included a claim of citizenship, but it also alerted the Department of Motor Vehicles that he had an alien registration number, which by definition meant he was not a US citizen.
While his green card case was pending, USCIS found out about this and they decided to deny his green card application.
The government waited a few years and then they even took it further.
They sent the case to ICE and they said, "Hey, Mr. and Mrs. Patel, we know that you're here without status, we know that your green card case was denied, and we believe you made a false claim to citizenship so we're going to deport you."
Mr. and Mrs. Patel hired a lawyer to fight the deportation.
When they got to immigration court and they had their hearing in front of the immigration judge, Mr. Patel pointed out the fact that he had told the DMV about his alien registration number and that his claim to citizenship was a mistake, that he hadn't meant it, it wasn't on purpose, and that he didn't even realize he had done it.
The immigration judge ruled against Mr. and Mrs. Patel. The immigration judge found that Mr. Patel had not been truthful when he applied for his driver's license.
The judge also tweaked Mr. Patel by saying that when he applied for asylum earlier, that he had misstated his entry into the United States.
So the judge ruled against the Patels and ordered them deported.
The Patels decided to appeal, and when you appeal from an immigration judge you go to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Still not federal judges, not Article 3 judges who are appointed for life.
These are also part of the deportation machine.
And the BIA reviewed the case but they deferred to the immigration judge, and they decided that the immigration judge was right and that they were not going to substitute their judgment for that of the immigration judge.
So the immigration judge's decision was then appealed to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Eleventh Circuit is actual federal court. These are judges who are one step below the Supreme Court. They are between a federal district judge and the US Supreme Court.
And so if you remember from studying this in school, you know we have federal judges at the district level.
They decide controversies between parties at the district level.
Then we have the court of appeals which takes appeals from district courts and from the Board of Immigration appeals.
This is how Mr. and Mrs Patel's case ended up there.
The central issue before the Eleventh Circuit was, "Hey, can we, as federal judges, take a look at that factual determination by the immigration judge when Mr. and Mrs. Patel were trying to stop their deportation and get their green cards?"
When they looked at it, they found themselves prevented from doing that by a law that was passed in the mid-1990s called Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA).
On appeal, the 11th Circuit decided that IIRAIRA stripped immigration judges' cases being reviewed, that their factual determinations were not to be reviewed in federal court.
So the Eleventh Circuit upheld the denial of a green card to Mr. or Mrs. Patel and upheld the decision deporting them. Now, what happens next?
The Supreme Court took the case on appeal. Now, the Supreme Court doesn't take every case. In fact, they take a very small minority of cases.
They take less than 1% of the cases in which people apply for relief at the Supreme Court. In other words, it's discretionary.
The Supreme Court chooses which cases that it wants to take.
On appeal, both the Biden administration, which was defending the immigration judge's decision, and the lawyers for the immigrant, was arguing that federal courts are not prevented from looking at the actual factual determinations surrounding the deportation.
However, nobody was ready for what happened next.
In a 5-4 decision issued this week, Amy Coney Barrett and the conservative members of the court, minus Neil Gorsuch, they went further than even the government was arguing.
These justices made a new rule that, no longer can federal courts ever review factual determinations made by an immigration judge in deciding whether or not to give discretionary relief like a green card to people who are facing deportation.
This is a monumental decision because now an immigrant who has been ordered deported has no relief in front of an Article 3 judge.
They have no opportunity to have their case reviewed by a judge who's appointed for life and who has safety and is not a political hack or a political appointee.
This is really important because now when we have the deportation machine set up and sped up that federal courts are basically going to be without power to review.
In Amy Coney Barrett's decision, she went further than even the government was arguing and said, "We rule that Congress intended to strip federal courts from that ability to review those kind of decisions."
This is contrary to the last 20 years of jurisprudence, the last 20 years of decisions, and it was certainly not something that anybody was anticipating.
So, how did we get here? Well, it's a really dark day.
The Clinton administration, trying to be "tough on crime" back in the '90s, they wanted to make immigrants' lives much harder.
This is when that law was passed.
So when you hear people blaming Republicans for all of the immigration woes, you have to come back to the fact that it was Democrat Bill Clinton who signed this law and set up this decision by the US Supreme Court.
So there's plenty of blame to go to Mr. Clinton, and I complain about him often on our channel.
We also have to complain about this 5-4 decision.
Now, to his credit, Republican and conservative Neil Gorsuch, wrote the dissenting opinion, and he lays out why this is so catastrophic.
The main point that he makes is that even in a situation now under the new ruling, even in a situation where everyone agrees that the immigration judge's factual determination was wrong, that even if everybody thinks that this was a mistaken decision, no one can change it in federal court.
This is unheard of.
This is contrary to the Administrative Procedures Act.
It's contrary to the laws that we've been seeing.
And it's contrary to fundamental fairness, because now we have administrative bureaucratic law judges, who are not appointed for life, who are appointed at the whim of the president, who can make a factual determination that is contrary to the actual facts of the case.
They can order someone deported, and the immigrant has no right to challenge that in any meaningful way, even before the Supreme Court.
That's where we're at.
Some blame, too, must rest on the Biden administration.
They could have stopped this. They could have not participated in the appeal by making the case moot, by changing their mind, but they didn't do that.
And the reason for that is because Joe Biden has surrounded himself with a bunch of hacks and a bunch of hawks when it comes to immigration.
The Trump administration was harsh on immigrants and everybody knew it.
The Biden administration acts like they're trying to help immigrants, but they screwed immigrants by forcing the Supreme Court to reach this decision.
If they had made this case go away, we wouldn't have this decision now.
And this is going to affect thousands and thousands of immigrants, and we only have Merrick Garland, the attorney general, the defendant in the case, and Joe Biden to thank for that.
That's who brought this to us.
So plenty of blame for the Democrats.
I'm almost as mad at the Democrats as I am at the five conservatives who wrote this decision.
But at the end of the day, it doesn't matter if I'm mad.
It doesn't matter if you're mad.
What matters is that this is going to lead to the deportation of thousands and thousands of immigrants who are not gonna have any chance at meaningful review of their decisions.
It's a horrible day, it's a bad day, and it's gonna really cause a lot of suffering for families across America.
If you're as angry as I am, if you're as frustrated as I am, please be sure to reach out to your members of Congress because apparently, according to the Supreme Court, it is only Congress who can make this better.
And we have to do the work to elect politicians who are supportive of immigrants and can change this horrible law that Bill Clinton signed back in the '90s.
You can also give us a call if you have any questions about this.
We don't handle deportations at our office, but we thought this video was so important that I wanted to explain to you what had happened and to make sure that you had all the facts at your fingertips when you're deciding whether to appeal, how to appeal, what you can actually appeal, after being ordered deported.
You can give us a call, 314-961-8200, you can email us at [email protected].
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Thanks a lot and have a great day.