The US Supreme Court affirmed the conclusion of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, holding that federal courts may not review the US Attorney General’s decisions refusing discretionary relief from removal, even if the alien claims the decision was based on a factual mistake. No. 20-979 Patel v. Garland (May 16, 2022).
Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts, as well as Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanagh, and Clarence Thomas joined her. The Supreme Court had granted review in order to reconcile a circuit split.
Pankajkumat Patel and his wife applied for discretionary relief from removal and deportation in two distinct adjustments of status petitions in this instance. They had unlawfully entered the United States in the 1990s.
They have three kids, one of whom is a United States citizen and the other two of whom are lawful permanent residents. The Patels attempted to correct their predicament by applying for discretionary relief in 2007, but their petitions were refused because Patel claimed to be a US citizen by ticking the incorrect box on a driver’s license application.
He said that this was an honest mistake and that he had no intention or purpose to pretend to be a U.S. citizen in order to acquire a driver’s license since he was qualified for one in Georgia (where he resided) because he had a pending adjustment application and legal work permission.
Patel is endorsed by the US administration.
The United States government-backed Patel, arguing that factual determinations were not discretionary and hence could be challenged. Because the government did not agree with the Eleventh Circuit’s decision, the Supreme Court chose Taylor A.R. Meehan, a former 11th Circuit and Supreme Court law clerk, to argue on its behalf.
Meehan is one of the few women ever to be considered for this position. Any authoritative judgments comprising all choices connected to the granting or denial of discretionary relief, according to Meehan, are unreviewable.
Justice A forceful dissent was given by Neil Gorsuch, backed by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan: It is no secret that the government makes errors while processing applications, licenses, and permits. They’re usually little blunders—a misspelled name or a lost application. However, a bureaucratic blunder may occasionally have life-altering repercussions.
This is the situation in which we find ourselves. An immigrant applied for legal residence in this nation. His application was denied by the government. The administration allegedly did so based on a major factual mistake. Individuals have long been able to petition a court to evaluate the matter and fix any errors in such circumstances.
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The Supreme Court makes its decision.
Not any longer. Today, the Supreme Court rules that a federal bureaucracy may commit an evident factual mistake that leads to an individual’s deportation and that there is nothing that can be done about it.
The matter may not even be heard in court. It’s a bold allegation with serious implications for many legal immigrants. And it’s such an implausible assertion of raw administrative authority that neither the purportedly wronged agency nor any other branch of the Executive Branch supports it. Today’s majority acts independently to protect the government from having to fix even its most egregious blunders.
Other immigrants have made the same error as Patel since 2017, thanks in part to voter ID legislation. The severity of this decision illustrates how one tiny blunder might jeopardize an immigrant’s chances of entering the United States.