Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Supreme Court Rules Courts Can Review Motions To Reopen Immigration Cases

Today the United States Supreme Court issued a ruling in an immigration case that may open the doors to courthouses for countless immigrants slated for deportation.  The ruling gives federal courts jurisdiction to hear decisions on motions to reopen decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals.  The federal regulation gives discretion to the Attorney General and does not allow any review of his final decision.  However, the Supreme Court, relying on the longstanding tradition of judicial review of administrative action and an unwillingness to exempt judicial review of administrative decisions unless the statute clearly provides for it.  In this case the court found that such a prohibition does not exist in the legislation. 

The case involved an Albanian citizen who came to the United States in 1995 on a work visa.  The visa expired and he continued to remain in the United States.  In 1996 he applied for political asylum claiming he would be persecuted for his political beliefs if he returned to Albania.  He failed to appear for his asylum hearing and he was ordered to be deported.  He filed Motions to Reopen his case but the motions were denied by the Attorney General and the Board of Immigration Appeals.

An interesting twist to the case is that the government agreed with the petitioner that the federal court should have jurisdiction to hear the denial of his Motion to Reopen his case.

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