Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has asked the
Justice Department to clarify a “potentially misleading statement”
government lawyers made to the Supreme Court in a 2009 immigration case.
The government told the court that its “policy and practice” was to
assist deported aliens in returning to the U.S. if they win their
immigration cases on appeal. Chief Justice John Roberts cited that
assurance in his opinion for the court, Nken v. Holder.
But immigration lawyers said they were unaware of any such practice,
and filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain relevant
government records. In February, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who
reviewed government emails concerning the case, said there was “substantial evidence that the judicial process may have been impugned” by incorrect information provided to the Supreme Court.
Judge Rakoff, of federal district court in New York, ordered portions
of the emails released, but has stayed that ruling while the government
weighs whether to appeal.
In a letter dated March 29,
Sen. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, asked Attorney General Eric Holder to
explain whether the policy did exist in 2009, and whether it did today.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing the letter.
As reported by
The Wall Street Journal, following Judge Rakoff’s opinion, the
Department of Homeland Security for the first time published a policy
for “facilitating the return” of deported aliens who win immigration
appeals. In his letter to the attorney general, Sen. Leahy observed that
the document provides no guidance on how eligible aliens can obtain
assistance, nor does it suggest the government would do anything “beyond
stating that it might issue a boarding document for a flight and admit
the alien to the United States.”
“Is there a meaningful policy and practice to facilitate the return
of deportees who later win their immigration cases? Was there such a
policy in place in 2009? Is there any record of the executive branch
implementing such a policy prior to the Feb. 24, 2012, [Immigration and
Customs Enforcement] policy statement?” Mr. Leahy asked.
The Wall Street Journal has asked similar questions of the Justice
Department beginning in February, but received no substantive response.
Last month, the Judiciary Committee’s top Republican, Sen. Chuck
Grassley of Iowa, told the Journal he hoped the Justice Department would
clarify the situation." - WSJ, Apr. 3, 2012.