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Media Alerts - Rosa Elida Castro v. US Department of Homeland Security - Third Circuit
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September 9, 2016
  Rosa Elida Castro v. US Department of Homeland Security - Third Circuit
Headline: Third Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Habeas Corpus Petition For Lack Of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Area of Law: Immigration

Issue(s) Presented: Does the district court have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate alien-petitioners' claims that an asylum officer and immigration judge violated their Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights under 8 U.S.C. § 1252 and 8 U.S.C §1225?

Brief Summary:

Twenty-eight families entered the United States illegally and were apprehended by authorities. Because they had no immigration papers and did not claim to have been previously admitted to the United States, they were ordered to be expeditiously removed. Upon apprehension, they expressed a fear of persecution if they were to be returned to their home countries. In accordance with the law, an asylum officer interviewed each individual and determined no credible threat existed. They were granted a de novo review of this determination by an immigration judge who concurred with the findings.

Petitioners submitted petitions for habeas corpus relief, claiming that the officers and immigration judge violated their Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights. The Third Circuit affirmed the district court's findings that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that statutes unambiguously foreclose judicial review of all claims. Further, the Court determined that the Suspension Clause did not require that judicial review be available to address any of Petitioners' claims and therefore §1252(e) does not violate the suspension clause.


Extended Summary:

This case concerns 28 families who were natives and citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala who entered the United States seeking refuge. These individuals claimed to have been in fear of becoming victims of violence from gangs or domestic partners. United States Customs and Border Protection agents apprehended them within one to six hours of entering the country. Under the controlling statute, 8 U.S.C § 1252, and because these individuals had no immigration papers and none claimed to have been previously admitted to the country, they fell within the class of aliens to whom expedited removal applies. Upon apprehension, each individual expressed a fear of persecution if returned to their native country. In accordance with the law, each was referred to an asylum officer to determine if a credible fear existed, which was not found. The officers' supervisors reviewed and approved this determination.

Petitioners then requested and were granted de novo review of this determination by an immigration judge who concurred with the asylum officers' conclusions. The petitioners were referred back to the Department of Homeland Security for removal. Each family then submitted a separate habeas petition, claiming that the asylum officer and the immigration judge violated their Fifth Amendment procedural due process rights as well as a variety of other statutes.

Petitioners argued that the district court should construe §1252 to allow review of their claims in order to avoid "the serious constitutional concerns that would arise" otherwise. This argument was rejected by the district court, which concluded that the statute unambiguously foreclosed judicial review of all claims. Further, the Court determined that the Suspension Clause did not require that judicial review be available to address any of Petitioners' claims and therefore §1252(e) does not violate the Suspension Clause. The Court dismissed with prejudice the consolidated petitions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Petitioners then filed an appeal with this Court, challenging the district court's holding that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction as well as the conclusion that §1252(e) does not violate the Suspension Clause.

Petitioners argued that the district court has jurisdiction to entertain "whether [they have been] ordered removed" under §1252(e)(2)(B). The Court rejected this argument, pointing to §1252(a)(2)(A)(iii), which states that "No court shall have jurisdiction to review . . . the application of §1225(b)(1) to individual aliens, including the [credible fear] determination made under [§1252(b)(1)(B)]." The Court concluded that the district court lacked jurisdiction under §1252 to review Petitioners' claims and then evaluated the constitutionality of the statute under the Suspension Clause.

Petitioners argued that under the Supreme Court's Suspension Clause jurisprudence, courts must, at a minimum, be able to review the legal conclusions underlying the Executive branch's credible fear determinations, including the Executive's interpretation and application of a statute to undisputed facts. They argued that because §1252(e)(2) does not provide for at least this level of review, it constitutes an inadequate substitute for habeas relief in violation of the Suspension Clause. Finally, they argued that regardless of the extent of their constitutional or statutory due process rights, habeas relief stands as a constitutional check against illegal detention by the Executive that is separate and apart from the protections afforded by the Due Process Clause. The Government argued that the plenary power doctrine forecloses Petitioners' Suspension Clause challenge. Further, the Government argued that because Petitioners have no underlying procedural due process rights to vindicate, the scope of habeas review is irrelevant.

The Court agreed with the Government that §1252 is a constitutional and permissible suspension of the writ. The Court first pointed to the Supreme Court's holding that a statute modifying the scope of habeas review is constitutional under the Suspension Clause so long as the modified scope of review is neither inadequate nor ineffective to test the legality of a person's detention. The Court relied on a two-step inquiry where courts must first determine whether a given habeas petitioner is prohibited from invoking the Suspension Clause due to some attribute of the petitioner or to the circumstances surrounding his arrest or detention. Once it is confirmed that the petitioner is not so prohibited, the court must then turn to the question of whether the substitute for habeas is adequate and effective to test the legality of the petitioner's detention.

The Court determined that the Petitioners could not satisfy the first part of the inquiry. The Supreme Court has concluded that an alien seeking initial admission the the United States requests a privilege and has no constitutional rights regarding his application. Because the Petitioners were apprehended within hours of entering the United States, the Court concluded it was appropriate to treat them as "aliens seeking initial admission to the United States." Because the issues that the Petitioners seek to challenge all stem from the Executive branch's decision to remove them from the country, they cannot invoke the Constitution, including the Suspension Clause, in an effort to force judicial review beyond what Congress has already granted them. The Court therefore concluded that Congress may deny habeas review in federal court of claims relating to an alien's application for admission to the country, at least as to aliens who have been denied initial entry or who were apprehended very near the border and immediately after surreptitious entry into the country.

The Court acknowledged that its decision to treat Petitioners as "aliens seeking initial admission the the United States" appears to conflict with precedent suggesting that an alien's physical presence in the country alone allows for some constitutional protections. The Court reasoned that past cases involving arriving aliens rejected the aliens' efforts to invoke additional protections based merely on their presence in the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Further, the Supreme Court has suggested that entrants like Petitioners do not qualify for constitutional protections based merely on physical presence alone. The Court affirmed the district court's order dismissing Petitioners' habeas petitions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The full opinion can be found at http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/161339p.pdf .

Panel: Smith, Hardiman, and Shwartz, Circuit Judges 

Argument Date: May 19, 2016

Date of Issued Opinion: August 29, 2016

Docket Number: 16-1339

Decided: Affirmed.

Case Alert Author: Megan Knoll

Counsel: Lee Gelernt, Jennifer Newell, Mary Catherine Roper, and Witold Walczak, Counsel for Appellants; Joseph Darrow, Erez Reuveni, Counsel for Appellees.

Author of Opinion: Circuit Judge Smith

Circuit: Third Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Prof. Mary E. Levy

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 09/09/2016 01:24 PM     3rd Circuit  

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