Thursday, May 07, 2020

Unanimous Supreme Court rebukes 9th Circuit on immigration law

The Supreme Court is often divided on ideological lines on hot-button issues, and tends to write unanimously when dealing with procedural questions where a lower court just went off the rails. So, when the Court takes a unanimous stand in a case involving a controversial political issue and goes out of its way to dress down the lower-court judges, you know they really went overboard. That’s what happened this morning in an immigration case, United States v. Sineneng-Smith. Justice Ginsburg herself delivered the lecture to the Ninth Circuit to knock off the antics and stick to the cases before it.

The Sineneng-Smith case involved an immigration consultant who made $3.3 million from clients (mostly Philippine immigrants) by filing applications for lawful permanent residence when she knew they were not legally entitled to that status. There were two potential victims here: the immigrants, if they paid for something they were never going to receive, or the government, if it approved illegal applications. Sieneneng-Smith tried to make herself more sympathetic by arguing that she was only scamming the immigration system: She “argued that labor-certification applications were often approved despite expiration of the statutory dispensation, and that an approved application, when submitted as part of a petition for adjustment of status, would place her clients in line should Congress reactivate the dispensation.” Neither of these was an argument that her clients had any legal leg to stand on, just hope that they might get away with it.

Sineneng-Smith argued that she had a First Amendment right to file bogus applications, under the Petition and Free Speech Clauses. When her appeal reached the Ninth Circuit, however, it landed before notorious liberal activist judge Stephen Reinhardt (who died after the case was argued, and has since been the subject of other controversies), on a three-judge panel with two Clinton appointees, judges Marsha Berzon and Wallace Tashima. Instead of hearing the arguments Sineneng-Smith made against her conviction, the judges thought up their own argument — that the federal statute against “encourag[ing] or induc[ing] an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law” is itself overbroad and should be thrown out in its entirety.

Read the rest here.

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