Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Cardoza-Fonseca

PETITIONER: Immigration and Naturalization Service
RESPONDENT: Cardoza-Fonseca
LOCATION: Craig, Colorado

DOCKET NO.: 85-782
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 480 US 421 (1987)
ARGUED: Oct 07, 1986
DECIDED: Mar 09, 1987

Dana Marks Keener - on behalf of Respondent
Lawrence G. Wallace - on behalf of Petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Cardoza-Fonseca

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 1986 in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Cardoza-Fonseca

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear argument first this morning in No. 85-782, Immigration and Naturalization Service versus Luz Marina Cardoza-Fonseca.

Mr. Wallace.

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

In June of 1984 this Court held in INS against Stevic that an alien's burden of proving eligibility for withholding of deportation to a particular country under Section 243(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act is to show that it is more likely than not that the alien would be subject to persecution if sent back to that country.

In the present case, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit correctly recognized that the Board of Immigration Appeals has consistently taken the position that essentially the same standard, although formulated in various ways, also applies to an alien's burden of proving eligibility for the greater benefit of asylum under Section 208(a) of the Act.

The Court of Appeals, however, rejected the Board's interpretation and remanded the case for reconsideration by the Board under a standard devised by the Court of Appeals.

This Court granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in circuits about whether the Board's interpretation of the statute is a permissible one, entitled to be upheld by the courts.

The Board of Immigration Appeals, whose interpretations are binding by regulation on district directors and other Immigration and Naturalization Service employees, has been recognized by this Court as the expert body whose interpretations of the immigration laws are entitled to judicial deference.

And after this Court's opinion in Stevic and the conflict in the circuits developed, the Board re-examined at some length its position with respect to Section 208(a) in an opinion which we reproduced in the appendix to the petition for certiorari, called Acosta, beginning on page 29A of the appendix to the petition for certiorari and taking up the remainder of the appendix.

And I commend that opinion to the Court's attention.

There the Board carefully considered the legislative history of the Refugee Act of 1980, its international law background, the judicial opinions that have commented on it, and, as the Court knows, the Board determined that its position had been correct all along, and it had good reasons for doing so.

The question is whether the Board's interpretation is a reasonable one that should be upheld, reasonable in the sense that it is not precluded by the statutory language or by the legislative history or by the sense of the statute.

And we submit that there are three categories of reasons why the Board's interpretation is a reasonable one, entitled to judicial deference.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Mr. Wallace, am I correct in understanding that in the Sevic case, whatever it is, the Court assumed the standards were different?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

It assumed for purposes of decision, but it expressly left the question open.

You know, there is some commentary which suggests the possibility that the standards could be different, and the assumption was made for purposes of decision.

But this is the question that was expressly left open in Stevic.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Wallace, I'm also concerned by the fact that Congress considered an express requirement that applicants for asylum meet the same standard required for withholding deportation and rejected it.

And is that something that we should consider in the balance here of how much deference to give to the Board's present interpretation?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

Well, of course it can be considered, but there were no circumstances connected with that particular incident that indicated that Congress clearly thought a different standard did apply.

And it's just part of the legislative background which the Board has considered as a whole.

I don't think there's any one incident that's dispositive.

If I can--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

At one juncture, at least, the Board didn't think there was any practical or meaningful distinction between probability and well-founded, did it not?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

--That is still the Board's position.

That has always been the Board's position, that a clear probability or likelihood or what this Court called in Stevic more likely than not, three formulations which the Court recognized as equivalent in Stevic, are for practical purposes the same as well-founded fear of prosecution; that while the verbal formulations differ, as the Board put it, for practical purposes the standards converged.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And do you still support the Board?

Lawrence G. Wallace:

That is our position.

That has consistently been the Board's position.

The Court of Appeals stated that that has consistently been the Board's position and correctly cited Board decisions starting in 1973 up through the Acosta case in which the Board has stated that position.