Leahy Presses DOJ on ‘Potentially Misleading’ Statement in Immigration Case

Leahy Presses DOJ on ‘Potentially Misleading’ Statement in Immigration Case


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.