Supreme Court denies immigrant’s challenge to unlawful entry indictment

While Democrats have long expressed frustration with the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, its justices gave them even more cause for concern with a series of recent decisions on a variety of issues.

One such case involved an undocumented immigrant who sought to challenge an indictment after he was allegedly caught living in the U.S. in 2018 after being deported two decades earlier.

Background on the case

Reports indicate that Refugio Palomar-Santiago obtained a green card and became a legal resident prior to his 1998 deportation for a charge of driving under the influence. He was charged with criminal re-entry after his most recent encounter with authorities.

In a unanimous decision on Monday, the Supreme Court rejected his motion.

Palomar-Santiago reportedly faced charges 30 years ago in California for driving under the influence. In 1998, an immigration judge ruled that the charge constituted an aggravated felony and the immigrant was deported to Mexico the next day.

About six years later, the Supreme Court decided in Leocal v. Ashcroft that a DUI charge should not be considered an aggravated felony, which Paloma-Santiago attempted to use as precedent to challenge his current legal troubles.

He was caught in the U.S. in 2017, this time illegally, and was subsequently charged with immigration law violations.

Possible ramifications

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that Palomar-Santiago should not be required to exhaust three requisite administrative avenues before pursuing his challenge to the original deportation order.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, however, wrote in the high court’s decision that the appeals court’s “interpretation is incompatible” with current federal statutes, adding: “The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The case began under former President Donald Trump, though the executive branch has pursued a much different immigration agenda since President Joe Biden was inaugurated earlier this year.

While the Biden administration has taken a different stance on several other related issues, it did not issue an official response in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The implications of this ruling are likely to be “narrow,” according to an analysis by SCOTUSblog, but could lead to “broader and potentially troubling consequences” for immigrants in the future.

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