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Recent U.S. Supreme Court Decisions on Immigration

Below is my summary of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on Immigration. Please contact me if you have any questions or comments about the cases, my interpretations thereof or if you need my legal assistance.

Recent Published U.S. Supreme Court Cases on Immigration:

Mellouli v. Lynch, 575 U.S. _____ (2015);
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that when a specific State’s controlled substance schedule includes substances that are not on the federal schedule, a conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia, where the specific substance is not referenced in the conviction documents, cannot support an INA § 237(a)(2)(B)(i) charge (conviction for a controlled substance offense). The Court held that the Department failed to meet its burden of proof because the Kansas controlled substance schedule was broader than the Federal schedule, and Mr. Mellouli could have been convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia related to a non-federally controlled substance. The Court noted that INA § 237(a)(2)(B)(i) only relates to federally-controlled substances.

Reyes Mata v. Lynch, 576 U.S. _____ (2015);
The U.S. Supreme Court held that a U.S. court of appeals has jurisdiction to review the Board of Immigration Appeal’s denial of a motion to reopen. The Court rejected a holding of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals where the court claimed that is lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s denial of a motion to reopen. The Supreme Court stated that the appeals court has jurisdiction to review the merits of the Board’s decision to deny a statutory motion to reopen and should not dismiss the Petition for Review purely on jurisdictional grounds.

Kerry v. Din, 576 U.S. _____ (2015);
The U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that an applicant for admission, who is not in the United States and has no lawful immigration status, also has no right to pursue a cause of action on his/her own when denied admission (the consular non-reviewability doctrine). In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court went further and refused to extend due process protections to a U.S. citizen who petitioned for her spouse to seek admission to the United States through consular processing. The Court held that there was no fundamental right to live in the United States with your foreign-born spouse. Therefore, due process protections did not extend to the consular processing procedures that allow U.S. consular posts to summarily deny applications for immigrant visas without a detailed or even specific listing of their reasons.

Johnson v. United States, 576 U.S. _____ (2015);
In a federal criminal sentencing case that is sure to have far-reaching immigration implications, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the residual clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) violates due process because it is unconstitutionally vague in its use and application of the “ordinary case” standard. This is important in the immigration context because immigration and federal courts rely on decisional case law applying the ACCA’s residual clause when analyzing crimes of violence in the immigration context pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 16(a) and (b). In fact, the language in 18 U.S.C. § 16(b) is very similar to the language in the ACCA’s residual clause that the Supreme Court found unconstitutional. Ironically, the Board’s published decision noted above in Matter of Francisco-Alonzo, 26 I&N Dec. 594 (BIA 2015) which mandates the use of the “ordinary case” analysis for crimes of violence, has likely already been overruled by this decision.

John Gihon is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Florida Bar. John is a partner with the law offices of Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon and passionate about crimmigration law.

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