Conservative Justices Tell Courts to Step Back from Deportation Cases

A divided Supreme Court recently ruled that federal courts do not have the power to review immigration officials’ decisions in certain deportation cases.

This is the case even if they have made what a dissenting justice termed “egregious factual mistakes.”

The SCOTUS ruled 5-4 against Pankajkumar Patel, a Georgia resident, who checked a box indicating that he was a citizen of the U.S. when renewing his Georgia driver’s license in 2008.

A Justice Department employee, an immigration judge, concluded that Patel intended to misrepresent his status to get his license, even though Georgia law entitles non-citizens in similar situations to receive a license to drive.

Mr. Patel and his wife, Jyotsnaben, admit they entered the United States illegally around 30 years ago after leaving their native India.

He applied for legal permanent residency status, or a “green card,” with the support of his employer. The Patel family has three children. Two are green-card holders who are married to Americans, and one is a U.S. citizen.

However, Patel’s pursuit of legal status foundered on his driver’s license application, with an immigration judge ruling that Patel had intentionally misrepresented his citizenship status.

The judge ordered that Mr. Patel and his wife be deported.

Coney Barrett wrote the decision for justices

Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote the decision for the five conservative justices, which said that under U.S. immigration law federal courts could not review such decisions.

While the attorney general of the U.S. can grant protection from deportation, people must first be determined eligible. The immigration judge decided that Patel was ineligible.

“Federal courts have a very limited role to play in this process,” wrote Barrett. The majority ruling concluded that immigration law “precludes judicial review of factual findings that underlie a denial of relief.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch, along with the court’s three liberal justices, dissented, with Gorsuch writing, “As a result, no court may correct even the agency’s most egregious factual mistakes about an individual’s statutory eligibility for relief.”

Gorsuch noted that the agency had itself sided with Patel at the nation’s highest court.

Although the high court dealt with deportation, Justice Gorsuch wrote that the decision could cause the foreclosure of court reviews when immigration officials make errors of fact in other contexts.

“The student hoping to remain in the country, the foreigner who married a U.S. citizen, the skilled worker sponsored by her employer,” he said.

Gorsuch pointed out that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a backlog of nearly 790,000 pending cases and rejected 13,000 green-card applications in the last three months of 2021, according to government statistics.