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Question: I have heard that the government is trying to deport people to their countries even if the foreign government does not want them back. Is this true?

Answer: Yes. However, in a recent 9th Circuit decision, Ali vs. Ashcroft, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 19213 (9th Cir. 2003), this issue was addressed.

In this case, the man was from Somalia and he had a final order of removal against him. The Bureau of Customs and Immigration Enforcement (BICE) had plans to deport this person (Ali) to Somalia. He filed a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the District Court to prevent BICE from deporting him to Somalia (a country without a functioning government.)

First, Ali was not merely contesting the removal order. Instead, he was primarily arguing that BICE could not remove an alien to a country without a functioning government. Here, the Ninth Circuit held that administrative exhaustion is not required where they are not ruling on the merits of the removal, but rather, a practice of constitutional or statutory violations.

Next, this case held that if it would be futile to exhaust the administrative remedies, and the issue revolves around a legal question, that the appellant is not required to exhaust his administrative remedies.

This is a very critical ruling. Primarily, the reality of being removed from the United States is weighed against exhausting administrative remedies. What usually happens is that when a person is in imminent danger of being deported or removed from the United States, a Motion for a Stay of that Deportation can be filed with the Board of Immigration Appeals. In the vast majority of the cases, they will deny the Stay of Deportation, or simply not rule on the matter prior to the person being deported.

BICE will always try to make these jurisdictional arguments based upon the fact that the alien has failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. However, if the alien did not file the necessary Habeas Corpus to get a real chance at getting the stay of deportation issued, he would be deported and the issue would be moot. In this case, the alien was from Somalia and he faced a real likelihood of being killed or tortured by being returned to a country whereby there is no organized government. Thus, not only would it have been futile to try to get the stay of deportation issued by the BIA, it could have resulted in his death.

Thus, the Ninth Circuit ruled that judicial review was not barred in this case because of a lack of exhaustion of administrative remedies.

In Ali, supra, the Ninth Circuit goes through an analysis of how the government determines which country a person will be deported. The Immigration and Nationality Act §1231 deals with the procedure that must be used in order to designate the country of deportation. It essentially states that a country which the alien designates (or which the government designates if the alien is unwilling to do so) will be the country of removal if the government of that country gives their approval to accept the alien within thirty days. If the foreign government does not give their approval within 30 days, then the subsequent provisions of the statute must be followed to determine which will be the country of removal.

The subsequent provisions also make clear that it is necessary to have the foreign government’s approval in order to deport and remove the alien to that country.

Failing the first two sections, the government must look to a third section to determine the country of removal. In this third section, there is a litany of different provisions that are stated as to where will be the country of removal. All of the provisions do not require the foreign governments consent as do the prior provisions. Here, the BICE was arguing that the statute in the third set of provisions does not require that they have the governments consent, and therefore, they do not need any consent to deport aliens under this provision.

The Ninth Circuit adopted the reasoning of the District Court. In essence, they stated that the consent requirement of the foreign government was implicit in the third section. Otherwise, it would render the first two sections superfluous. For example, the government in the first section could deny the Attorney General permission to deport the alien to their country. Then, the Attorney General could go down to the third section to give themselves authority to deport the person without the consent of the foreign government which was specifically required in the first section. In fact, to allow the third section to stand without an implicit approval by the foreign government would make the first two sections meaningless.

Unfortunately, we are facing more situations similar to this case where the government will try to bootstrap a particular provision as giving them authority to perform an action when other provisions do not give them such authority.

Thus, this case has stood up to the fairness of aliens in this particular situation. The law has shown that BICE cannot try to deport an individual to a country who will not accept this alien and whom will torture and/or kill him upon his return.

After concluding that it was not legal to deport a person to a country where the foreign government has not given their authorization, the Ninth Circuit then addressed the issue of indefinite detention of the alien. Here, where there is no likelihood of removal in the foreseeable future, the alien must be released.

This particular case is not only a win for this particular alien, but for all aliens in his similar situation across the U.S. It is a ruling that shows that basic humanitarian considerations need to be followed.

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Preventing Removal through Habeas Corpus