In the case of an illegal immigrant seeking to avoid deportation, a ruling of 5-4 against found the United State Supreme Court in disagreement as to their specific role within the constitutional framework and Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with his liberal peers.
Pankajkumar Patel had entered the country illegally in the 90s with his wife Jyotsnaben and had endeavored to adjust his status in 2007 with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). However, when seeking to obtain his Georgia driver’s license, Patel had erroneously indicated that he was already a citizen and so his discretionary adjustment had been denied.
The case of Patel v. Garland was heard by SCOTUS after Patel had appealed to the 11th Circuit Court following the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) attempting to deport him and his wife. Writing for the majority, Justice Amy Coney Barrett was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Brett Kavanaugh in ruling the matter was outside their purview because Congress had set forth the rules Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department was required to follow.
The case involved a man from India who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years. DOJ found that he was ineligible for deportation relief because he once misrepresented his citizenship on a driver’s license form. SCOTUS rules that the man doesn’t get to appeal DOJ’s finding in court.
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) May 16, 2022
“Federal courts have a very limited role to play in this process,” Barrett wrote. “With an exception for legal and constitutional questions, Congress has barred judicial review of the Attorney General’s decisions denying discretionary relief from removal.”
She noted, “At the same time, there is room for mercy: Congress has given the Attorney General power to grant relief from removal in certain circumstances.”
In siding with Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, Gorsuch’s dissent was highly critical of the majority and expressed the ramifications implied in inherent infallibility within the federal bureaucracy where, barring intercession from Congress, the rule was supreme.
“Today, the Court holds that a federal bureaucracy can make an obvious factual error, one that will result in an individual’s removal from this country,” Gorsuch wrote, “and nothing can be done about it. No court may even hear the case. It is a bold claim promising dire consequences for countless lawful immigrants.”
“As a result, no court may correct even the agency’s most egregious factual mistakes about an individual’s statutory eligibility for relief,” he added as he parsed through the language used by the majority and by Congress in the statutes referenced.
Barrett had countered Gorsuch’s argument in the conclusion of her opinion when she wrote, “The plain…not any interpretive presumption, drives our conclusion today. Because the statute is clear, we have no reason to resort to the presumption of reviewability.”
However, in his assessment, that conclusion “turns an agency once accountable to the rule of law into an authority unto itself. Perhaps some would welcome a world like that. But it is hardly the world Congress ordained.”
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