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Immigration

Supreme Court denies Indian migrant’s appeal on deportation hearing notices

BY VEENA RAO

Washington D.C., June 17, 2024: The U.S. Supreme Court, on Friday, decided against three migrants, including Indian American Varinder Singh, who contended that the government violated immigration procedures by sending them removal hearing notices with incomplete information. The court’s 5-4 decision concluded that the migrants had adequate notice despite the initial omission of critical details.

Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, stated that the migrants should have raised their concerns about the incomplete notices during their hearings. Since they failed to appear, they forfeited the right to challenge the removal orders. “That gives the immigration judge a chance to reschedule the hearing to cure any prejudice from the missing information,” Alito wrote.

Justice Samuel Alito emphasized that immigration law “does not allow aliens to seek rescission of removal orders in perpetuity based on arguments they could have raised in a hearing that they chose to skip.”

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson dissented, arguing that the ruling effectively endorses the government’s practice of not providing the exact time and date of removal hearings, contrary to two previous Supreme Court decisions. She was joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch in her dissent. Jackson criticized the majority for “blessing the government’s abject noncompliance with the statute’s unequivocal command.”

The case was brought to the Supreme Court by Moris Esmelis Campos-Chaves, Varinder Singh, and Raul Daniel Mendez-Colin. They challenged the government’s deportation process, claiming that the notice system violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, which mandates that noncitizens be given a written notice of their removal proceedings.

Singh, who faces a removal order similar to Campos-Chaves, argued that the Department of Homeland Security failed to provide the required information upfront. Campos-Chaves, who entered the U.S. in 2005 and built a life as a gardener with a family and no criminal record, received a second notice with the hearing details only after the first notice left the time and place blank. His challenge, supported by Singh and Mendez-Colin, said the government must provide key information in the initial notice.

Singh, a native and citizen of India, entered the U.S. without inspection in 2016. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began removal proceedings against him and served him with a Notice to Appear, which did not specify the date or time for his removal hearing, instead stating “TBD.” After posting a bond paid by a family friend, Singh moved to Indiana and provided the immigration court with the address of another residence owned by the friend for reliable mail delivery. Unfortunately, his friend did not forward the hearing notices to Singh until 2019. When Singh missed his December 2018 removal hearing, an Immigration Judge ordered him removed in absentia.

Upon learning about the hearing notices and the removal order, Singh filed a motion to reopen and rescind the order. He argued that the initial Notice to Appear was invalid under Pereira v. Sessions (2018) because it lacked time and date information. Singh also claimed “exceptional circumstances” should rescind the in absentia order. However, the Immigration Judge denied the motion, reasoning that subsequent hearing notices cured any defects in the initial notice and that the failure of Singh’s friend to forward the notices did not constitute “exceptional circumstances.”

The Supreme Court previously addressed the notice-to-appear requirements in the 2018 Pereira v. Sessions case, ruling that the time and place must be included to trigger the stop-time rule for calculating continuous residence. However, Campos-Chaves’ request to challenge his deportation under this precedent was denied by an immigration judge and upheld by the Board of Immigration Appeals.

Alito’s opinion rejected the migrants’ argument, asserting that the law requires proof that they were never informed of the hearing time. He explained that even if the first notice lacked specific details, a second notice could rectify this. The critical factor, Alito concluded, was that noncitizens must be aware of their hearing date to challenge removal orders.

Justice Jackson argued that this interpretation neglects Congress’s intent for the initial notice to be comprehensive. She said the law was designed to ensure noncitizens receive proper notice of their removal proceedings, emphasizing that the court should not undermine these legislative objectives.

This report is based on information from Courthouse News and additional details from the U.S. Court of Appeals document. For further details, please refer to their comprehensive coverage of the Supreme Court ruling.

Cover photo used for representational purposes only.

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