Supreme Court rules factual errors in immigration judgements can’t be judicially reviewed

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a major ruling Monday on an immigration case that had the effect of compelling one of the conservative-leaning jurists to join his liberal colleagues in a scathing dissent.

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court upheld an appeals court ruling that denied a requested review of a factual error made by an immigration judge in a deportation case, Fox News reported.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas. Justice Neil Gorsuch, however, authored a dissent and was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagen, and Sonia Sotomayor.

Factual error leads to a deportation order

The case, known as Patel v. Garland, involved a man from India named Pankajkumar Patel who, along with his wife, had illegally entered the United States in the 1990s and have lived here ever since, according to SCOTUSblog.

Patel had sought an adjustment of his legal status and a green card in 2007 and, while that application was pending, had also applied to renew his Georgia driver’s license and, in the process, erroneously checked the box indicating that he was a U.S. citizen. That error led to his application for a green card being denied and, sometime later, prompted a deportation order.

He sought to appeal that removal order and have the error that compelled it reviewed and overturned but was denied and dismissed by both the Board of Immigration Appeals as well as the entire panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. And now he has also been rejected by the Supreme Court.

All in the interpretation

At issue in the case is a specific provision of an immigration statute dealing with judicial review of removal orders, 8 U.S.C. Sec. 1252(a)(2)(B)(i), which states in relevant part: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law … and regardless of whether the judgment, decision, or action is made in removal proceedings, no court shall have jurisdiction to review … any judgment regarding the granting of relief under section … 1255 of this title.”

In Justice Barrett’s majority opinion, she considered three separate interpretations of that particular statutory provision, including one from Patel, another from the U.S. government — which declined to defend the statute as applied — and a third from an amicus attorney chosen by the court to defend the statute in place of the government.

She ultimately determined that more narrow interpretations put forward by Patel and the government were wrong and sided with a more broad interpretation from the amicus attorney to decide that factual findings in immigration cases were not eligible for judicial review.

Dissent weighs negative repercussions of lack of judicial review for bureaucratic errors

Justice Gorsuch vehemently disagreed with Barrett’s decision and argued that factual errors in all cases should be up for review, and noted that in this particular case an “egregious” error on the part of an immigration judge, further upheld by higher courts, could result in this couple that has lived in America for roughly three decades without any other trouble being deported back to India.

“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, 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,” Gorsuch wrote.

This final verdict in Patel’s case could indeed prove quite consequential to countless legal and illegal immigrants alike, and it is difficult to accept that glaring errors made by government bureaucrats can’t be challenged or reviewed and corrected.

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