U.S. Supreme Court declines to stop deportation of Indian citizen

Pankajkumar Patel had claimed to be American on driver’s license application

Updated - May 17, 2022 08:47 pm IST

Published - May 17, 2022 05:05 am IST - Washington DC

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S..

A general view of the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S.. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

The United States Supreme Court, on Monday, ruled 5-4 against an Indian citizen who faces deportation from the country for ticking a box on driver’s license application form stating he was a U.S. citizen.

The petitioner, Pankajkumar Patel, had entered the U.S. illegally with his wife, Jyotsnaben, in the 1990s, according to court documents. He had applied to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for discretionary ‘adjustment of status’ ( a step in the green card process) in 2007. USCIS had denied his adjustment application for permanent residence (i.e., a green card) because it was aware that Mr. Patel had falsely stated he was a U.S. citizen on a driver’s license application in the state of Georgia.

The court documents say that the U.S. government started removal proceedings against Mr. Patel years after this. Mr. Patel argued, unsuccessfully, before an immigration judge that he had mistakenly ticked the form and therefore did not violate the law. The judge disagreed. Mr. Patel then appealed the decision with the Board of Immigration Appeals and lost.  He then approached a federal appeals court ( the Eleventh Circuit) which ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in the case, saying the law did not allow federal courts to review facts discovered during a discretionary-relief proceeding.

Mr. Patel eventually petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court in January last year and the court heard oral arguments in December. On Monday, it agreed with the lower court’s ruling.

On behalf of the majority, the newest justice on the bench, Amy Coney Barrett, a Trump-appointee wrote, “Federal courts have a very limited role to play in this pro­cess. With an exception for legal and constitutional ques­tions, Congress has barred judicial review of the Attorney General’s decisions denying discretionary relief from re­moval.”

Ms. Barrett added that “there is room for mercy” and that Congress had given the Attorney General the power to grant relief from deportation in certain cases.

Her fellow conservative justice , Neil Gorsuch, dissented along with the court’s three liberal justices, saying the position that federal courts could not review the facts in such cases was bound to have severe consequences.

“It is a bold claim promising dire consequences for countless lawful immigrants,” Justice Gorsuch wrote.

The case was brought up during the White House Press Briefing on Monday. Asked if the Biden administration would intervene in the case, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said it would be a matter for the Department of Justice to decide on.

The Patels have three sons, as per court documents, one of whom is a U.S. citizen. The other two are legal permanent residents and married to U.S. citizens.

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