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Sotomayor Dissents: Francois v. Wilkerson

January 26, 2021 (1 min read)

Francois v. Wilkerson

"Alex Francois is a 61-year-old Haitian national who came to the United States unlawfully when he was 19 and has lived here ever since. Francois suffers from severe mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychosis. He presents compelling evidence that, if he is removed to Haiti, he will be targeted for cruel and dehumanizing mistreatment because of his mental illness. An Immigration Judge (IJ) therefore granted Francois withholding of removal in 2019, guaranteeing that he would not be sent to Haiti. That should have been the end of this case. Instead, Francois now faces imminent removal to Haiti. Rather than deferring to the IJ’s factual findings, as the law requires, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) ignored them and remanded the case back to the IJ for further factfinding. On remand, the IJ reviewed the very same evidentiary record on which it had previously relied to grant Francois relief. This time, however, the IJ denied Francois withholding of removal, contradicting not only its prior decision but also key evidence that the IJ claimed to be crediting. The BIA dismissed Francois’ appeal. ... the Fifth Circuit’s decision to deny a stay was an abuse of its discretion. See Dada v. Mukasey, 554 U. S. 1, 21 (2008) (noting that it “may constitute an abuse of discretion” to deny a stay where a noncitizen “states nonfrivolous grounds” for relief). Today, this Court compounds the Fifth Circuit’s error by refusing to provide the temporary relief necessary to allow Francois’ appeal to be heard. ... The Government has long exercised its discretion to halt removal temporarily, either through an administrative stay or deferred action. See 8 CFR §241.6(a); Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of Univ. of Cal., 591 U. S. ___, ___ (2020) (slip op., at 3). That discretion is warranted here. As his father wrote in a letter to the IJ, Francois is “at his weakest and at his lowest” point. App. N to Application for Stay 20. For now, all he asks is the small grace, to which he is legally entitled, of being allowed to remain in the country while he pursues his substantial claims for relief. Because I would grant him that opportunity, I dissent."