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Landon v. Plasencia - 459 U.S. 21, 103 S. Ct. 321 (1982)


An alien seeking initial admission to the United States requests a privilege and has no constitutional rights regarding his application, for the power to admit or exclude aliens is a sovereign prerogative. Once an alien gains admission to our country and begins to develop the ties that go with permanent residence, his constitutional status changes accordingly. A continuously present resident alien is entitled to a fair hearing when threatened with deportation.


A permanent resident alien, Plasencia, who briefly left the United States was detained upon her return, and it was subsequently found in an exclusion hearing held pursuant to 236(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 USCS 1226(a)) that she smuggled aliens into the United States, that her trip was a meaningful departure from the United States, and that her return was therefore an "entry" within the meaning of 101(a)(13) of the Act (8 USCS 1101(a)(13)). Upon these findings, she was ordered to be excluded and deported. After the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed her administrative appeal and denied her motion to reopen the proceeding, the alien filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the United States District Court, which held that there was no meaningful departure on the part of the alien, and that she was therefore entitled to a deportation hearing, the District Court therefore vacating the Board's decision and instructing the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to proceed against the alien, if at all, only in deportation proceedings. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, concluding that the alien was entitled to litigate her admissibility in deportation proceedings, since it would be circular and unfair to allow the question of entry to be determined in exclusion hearings when the question also went to the merits of the alien's admissibility (637 F2d 1286).


Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the question of whether Plasencia was attempting to "enter" the U.S. could be litigated only in a deportation hearing and not in an exclusion hearing?




The Court found that the language and history of the Immigration and Nationality Act clearly stated the intent that, whether or not an alien was a permanent resident, admissibility should have been determined in an exclusion hearing. The determinations of both "entry" and the existence of grounds for exclusion could have been made at an exclusion hearing. Therefore, the INS had statutory authority to proceed in an exclusion hearing. The Court found that the factors relevant to due process analysis were not adequately presented, and it remanded to the court of appeals to decide if respondent was accorded due process.

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