The U.S. Supreme Court just gave immigrants another reason to seek out immigration lawyers. The importance of properly and accurately filling out forms has never been more pressing.
On Monday, the Court ruled 5-4 against Pankajkumar S. Patel, a citizen of India who has lived in the state of Georgia since 1992. He had petitioned for a change in status in 2008 when he applied for a driver’s license and checked a box that indicated that he was a U.S. citizen—which he wasn’t. Because of that, he was charged with making a false statement and even though the charges were dropped, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) placed him, his wife and children in removal proceedings.
Patel argued before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) that he checked the box by accident, and that there was no need for the misrepresentation since he could legally apply for a driver’s license with an application seeking lawful permanent residence and a valid employment authorization document, both of which he had. Nonetheless, an immigration court judge ruled that he hadn’t shown that the box was marked by mistake and ruled against him.
Patel appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that it lacked the jurisdiction to review the BIA’s factual findings, only the application of the law. On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld that opinion. “Federal courts lack jurisdiction to review facts found as part of discretionary-relief proceedings” Justice Amy Comey Barrett wrote in the majority decision.
That means mistakes can’t be reviewed or rectified after the BIA decision, whether they’re made by a immigrant or by DHS, as Justice Neil Gorsuch—a Trump appointee—wrote in the minority opinion.
“It is no secret that when processing applications, licenses and permits the government sometimes makes mistakes,” he wrote. “On the majority’s telling, courts are powerless to correct bureaucratic mistakes like these no matter how grave they may be.”
Bottom line: immigrants need to pay jeweler-like attention to all official documents. A good immigration lawyer can be helpful in those matters, and can help review documents to address errors DHS may inadvertently insert into the record. We’d be happy to help if we can.
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