May 16, 2022

Supreme Court Decides Patel v. Garland

On May 16, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Patel v. Garland, No. 20-979, holding that federal courts lack jurisdiction to review an immigration judge’s findings of fact pertaining to a removable immigrant’s petition for discretionary relief from removal from the United States.

Pankajkumar Patel illegally entered the United States in the 1990s and applied to become a legal permanent resident in 2007. While his application was pending, he applied for a driver’s license and checked a box on the application that misrepresented that he was a U.S. citizen. As a result, his application for permanent residency was denied. The Department of Homeland Security initiated removal proceedings to have Patel removed from the United States.

Patel asked the presiding Immigration Judge to grant him discretionary relief from removal because his misrepresentation on the driver’s license application was an accident, but the Immigration Judge found this not credible and denied relief. The Eleventh Circuit determined that, in such cases, it lacked jurisdiction to review findings of fact, including credibility determinations.

The Supreme Court affirmed by a 5-4 vote. The Court concluded that, by statute, Congress has “sharply circumscribed judicial review of the discretionary review process,” allowing review of immigration judges’ legal conclusions but not findings of fact. The Court rejected the Government’s argument that jurisdiction is stripped only over “subjective or evaluative” findings, and instead held that review of any finding of fact relating to discretionary relief from removal is outside the courts’ jurisdiction.

Justice Barrett authored the Court’s opinion, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh joined. Justice Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined.

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