Supreme Court Will Hear Two Immigration Cases in 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court announced this month which cases it will hear in the coming year. Two of such cases are immigration cases that could have significant implications on immigration law depending on how they are ultimately decided.

These two cases are summarized below:

Mellouli v. Holder – The ultimate issue here is whether an immigration court must analyze a crime, basing its analysis only on the information and charges laid out in the criminal conviction (the “categorical approach”), or whether the court is permitted to look at facts relating to the criminal case, even if such facts are reflected in the ultimate conviction (the “modified categorical approach”). Specifically, Mellouli v. Holder addresses the question of whether a noncitizen, including a lawful permanent resident, can be mandatorily detained and removed for possession of drug paraphernalia, even when there is no evidence in the conviction that the paraphernalia is related to a controlled substance. The defendant in this case is a lawful permanent resident who pled guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia in 2010. Although the charge did not make reference to a controlled substance, the original charge came after the defendant was found in possession of Adderall pills. ICE arrested the defendant and sought removal for violating a state law “relating to a controlled substance.”

Kerry v. Din – This case addresses “consular nonreviewability”—i.e. the doctrine that prevents courts from reviewing decisions of U.S. Department of State consular officers regarding immigration law. In 2011, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) approved an immigrant visa petition submitted by a U.S. Citizen for her spouse to come to the U.S. The U.S. consulate in Juarez, Mexico, however, refused to issue the visa stating it had “reason to believe” the beneficiary might be engaged in illegal activity in the U.S. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether a federal court can hear the family’s case and review the consular decision.

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