Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Rios-Pineda

PETITIONER: Immigration and Naturalization Service
LOCATION: Massachusetts Department of Education Bureau of Special Education Appeals

DOCKET NO.: 83-2032
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 471 US 444 (1985)
ARGUED: Mar 20, 1985
DECIDED: May 13, 1985

Alan I. Horowitz - on behalf of Petitioner
Lawrence H. Rudnick - on behalf of Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Rios-Pineda

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 20, 1985 in Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Rios-Pineda

Warren E. Burger:

Mr. Horowitz, I think you may proceed when you're ready.

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The Attorney General has provided by regulation that completed deportation proceedings may be reopened in his discretion to account for new circumstances.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Mr. Horowitz, that's by regulation, isn't it?


There's nothing in the statute.

Harry A. Blackmun:

And I suppose the Service could... the Attorney General could revoke that regulation if he wanted to?

That's right.

Withdraw it?

It's possible that Congress might want to do something about it at that point, but certainly it's within the Attorney General's authority to revoke the regulation, and the fact that he himself promulgated it suggests that the Attorney General is the one who knows what it means and that he has considerable discretion in how it is to be applied.

In addition, Congress has granted the Attorney General discretion to suspend the deportation of a deportable alien who meets certain threshold criteria.

In this case, Respondents have sought to reopen their deportation proceedings in order to seek suspension of deportation.

The question in this case is whether in exercising his twin discretion that I have described the Attorney General could take into account the fact that Respondents achieved eligibility, this threshold eligibility, for suspension of deportation only by filing frivolous appeals and engaged in other conduct flouting our immigration laws.

The Court of Appeals found that the Attorney General abused his discretion by taking these factors into account.

We have sought certiorari here because this ruling threatens substantial disruption of our immigration processes.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Mr. Horowitz, you agree that the proper standard for review is the abuse of discretion standard?

I would agree that that is the proper standard of review.

We think that it is quite--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

You just think it wasn't applied properly here?

--We think if the Court of Appeals' decision is correct here, there's really no room left at all for the Attorney General to apply any discretion, and that to the extent the opinion suggests that abuse of discretion is the correct standard the court was really only playing lip service to that but in fact was not applying it.

In 1974, with the assistance of a professional smuggler, both Respondents entered the United States without inspection.

In 1978, Mr. Rios-Pineda was discovered by Immigration officials and was granted the privilege of voluntary departure.

But he did not depart as promised and deportation proceedings were instituted against both Respondents.

Respondents conceded deportability at their deportation hearing and in December 1978 they were ordered deported.

Because they had been in the country for only four and a half years and the suspension of deportation relief requires seven years continuous presence in the United States, Respondents were not eligible for that relief and their request for that relief was denied at the deportation hearing.

Respondents took an immediate appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals, raising several wholly unmeritorious contentions.

And I should perhaps note here that both Respondents' brief to the Board of Immigration Appeals and their later brief to the Eighth Circuit are reprinted in the joint appendix.

In accordance with agency regulations, this appeal automatically stayed Respondents' deportation order.

When the Board dismissed the appeal, Respondents filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals raising essentially the same contentions.

That appeal also stayed, automatically stayed their deportation pursuant to statute.