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Supreme Court ruling upholds immigration law and deportation process

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday upheld a law established by Congress requiring the deportation of foreign nationals who illegally enter the country.

The court ruled on three consolidated cases in Campos-Chaves v Garland that were on appeal in the Fifth and Ninth circuits, where the appellate courts issued conflicting rulings.

The lawsuits were brought by foreign nationals who illegally entered the country, were deemed “inadmissible” under federal law and given Notice to Appear (NTA) documents stating they must appear before an immigration court at a future date and time. Each of the plaintiffs didn’t show up to their hearings, and federal immigration judges ordered their removal in absentia in accordance with federal law established by Congress.

In response, the illegal foreign nationals sued, demanding their removal orders be rescinded, claiming they didn’t receive proper written notification. They also challenged the definitions of the word “change” in the order they received and made other technical arguments.

The court ruled against them by a 5-4 vote. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the opinion for the court, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett concurring.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson filed the dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch.

The majority held that the federal government followed the law and provided the proper notification. The minority argued it didn’t and the federal government “persisted with its practice of issuing facially defective NTAs.”

Before the court were three consolidated cases “brought by aliens who moved for rescission on the ground that they did not receive proper notice. Though the facts vary, the key details are the same in each case,” Justice Alito explained. “When each alien failed to show up for the hearing, an Immigration Judge entered an in absentia order of removal. Each alien then sought rescission of that order … In all three cases, an Immigration Judge and the Board of Immigration Appeals refused to reopen the proceedings, prompting the aliens to file a petition for review in federal court.”

“Because each of the aliens in these cases received a proper paragraph notice for the hearings they missed and at which they were ordered removed, they cannot seek rescission of their in absentia removal orders on the basis of defective notice,” the court ruled.

One plaintiff, Moris Esmelis Campos-Chaves, an El Salvadoran citizen, illegally entered the U.S. near Laredo, Texas, in 2005. Three days later,removal proceedings were initiated against him and he didn’t show up to his court hearing. Thirteen years later, he asked for his removal proceedings to be reopened, which an immigration judge denied. He then appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which also denied his petition.

Another plaintiff, Varinder Singh, an Indian citizen, illegally entered the U.S. in 2016 after climbing over a fence in Calexico, California. Several weeks later, removal proceedings were initiated against him. After multiple hearing notices were sent, court dates and hearings were rescheduled, he failed to attend a 2018 hearing and an immigration judge ordered his removal in absentia. In 2019, he sought to have the order rescinded and petitioned the Ninth Circuit.

Raul Daniel Mendez-Colin, a Mexican citizen, illegally entered the U.S. in San Luis, Arizona, in 2001 by falsely claiming to be a U.S. citizen. Within 24 hours, he was issued an NTA. The immigration court scheduled multiple hearings in 2002, which he and/or his attorney attended. The immigration judge still ordered him to be removed, he appealed, and didn’t show up to his last hearing in 2003. The judge again ordered his removal, this time in absentia. He then filed motions to reopen his removal proceedings, which an immigration judge denied twice. Fifteen years later, he appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

In Singh’s and Mendez-Colin’s cases, a panel of three Ninth Circuit judges granted their petition. The federal government petitioned for a rehearing en banc for both cases, which were denied. It then petitioned the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld the Fifth Circuit’s judgment. It reversed the Ninth Circuit’s Mendez-Colin judgment and vacated its Singh judgment.

Alito also cited a previous 2022 ruling debunking the plaintiffs’ claims, stating, “It would be nonsensical to invalidate an in absentia removal order because two kinds of notice were not received when only one was required in the first place.”

The ruling established precedent for potential future cases that could be brought after the Biden administration began issuing NTAs with court dates three to four years in the future, The Center Square first reported. The ruling could also have a bearing on roughly 200,000 deportation cases that were thrown out by immigration judges because the Department of Homeland Security didn’t file paperwork with the courts in time for scheduled hearings.

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