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High court weighs in on immigration

Monday, July 6, 2015

In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two opinions dealing with due process in immigration matters. One deals with the substantive due process rights of a visa applicant who is outside the United States. The other, addressing procedural due process, clarifies the powers a federal court has with regard to extending immigration deadlines.

The first case, Kerry v. Din, addressed the rights of a man who wished to join his spouse, a U.S. citizen, in the United States. The U.S. State Department denied the husband’s visa application, citing a broad terrorism-related statute because he used to work in the Taliban-controlled government. He subsequently sued Secretary of State John Kerry and attempted to get the high court to review the denial.
The Supreme Court held that, because the husband is not a U.S. citizen, he does not have a right to judicial review. Moreover, according to the Court, the U.S. citizen spouse possesses no due process right to challenge the visa denial in federal court. The holding in Din has broader implications for immigration to the U.S.
Now, if a non-U.S. resident spouse has an immigration visa denied, there is little recourse to challenge the denial. The spouses would either have to remain separated or the U.S. citizen spouse would have to move to the country where the foreign national spouse resides.
The important delineation made by the Court in Din is that persons already in the U.S. possess a greater bundle of rights, regardless of immigration status, than those outside the United States. This leaves the denial of visa applications at the discretion of the Department of State.
The other recent Supreme Court decision with immigration implications is Mata v. Lynch.  The Mata case involved an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, who faced deportation proceedings after being convicted of assault. The Board of Immigration Appeals denied his appeal, after Mata’s attorneys failed to submit the appeals brief and then missed the deadline for filing a motion to reopen the case.
The lower court dismissed Mata’s case, citing a lack of authority to change the deadline for an immigration appeal. On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the federal appeals court has the authority to hear his case and, more generally, to decide whether to extend the deadlines in immigration proceedings on a case by case basis.
The Court’s ruling in Mata upholds the notion that the Constitution’s due process clause entitles an individual to his day in court, regardless of status. While the decision does not necessarily expand the few substantive due process rights that non-citizens possess in the U.S., it solidifies immigrants’ right to procedural due process -- as long as they’re in the country. If nothing else, Mata helps to ensure that a non-citizen will get through the courthouse door; it does little to help their chances of success once inside, though.

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