In a decision that offers a welcome rebuke to the open-borders, limited-enforcement immigration stance of Democrats and the Biden administration, the U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously against a Mexican national who challenged an order of deportation, as the Washington Examiner reports.
At issue was the situation presented by Refugio Palomar-Santiago of Mexico, who received green card status in the United States back in 1990. The subsequent year, he was convicted of a felony DUI offense in the state of California.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service ultimately sent Palomar-Santiago a Notice to Appear for a removal hearing as a result of the conviction on the DUI charge, then categorized as an aggravated felony. An immigration judge ordered his removal at that time, Palomar-Santiago waived his right to appeal, and he was almost immediately deported.
Six years after the deportation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Leocal v. Ashcroft that the DUI for which Palomar-Santiago had been convicted would no longer be considered a crime violence under federal law and therefore not an aggravated felony of the sort that triggered his removal.
Palomar-Santiago was discovered in 2017 to be living inside the United States yet again, and he was indicted on one count of unlawful reentry following removal. He sought dismissal of the charge by claiming that due to the Leocal decision, his original deportation was invalid.
In writing for the majority, Justice Sonia Sotomayor found that the 9th Circuit’s prior decision is incompatible with the text of the relevant federal statute that says defendants facing an unlawful reentry charge must show that they have exhausted available administrative remedies, that they were deprived of an opportunity for judicial review of their situation, and that the entry of the deportation order was “fundamentally unfair.”
Finding that Palomar-Santiago had failed to exhaust options to reverse the initial deportation, Sotomayor said it was improper for the 9th Circuit to excuse that failure and invalidate his removal from the country.
Indeed, when oral arguments were heard earlier this year, it already appeared likely that Palomar-Santiago stood little chance of success, with Chief Justice John Roberts hinting he did not think it the judicial branch’s duty to “unscramble the eggs” on prior cases following a change in immigration law, adding, according to the Examiner:
There are a lot of areas where the door closes, and you lose the right to go back and challenge prior determinations.
Given the dangerous reversals of Trump-era immigration policy prioritized by the White House over the past few months, it is at least heartening to see that the nation’s highest court was able to reach consensus in a way that establishes reasonable limits on an unlawful entrant’s ability to thwart deportation.