Reno v. Catholic Social Services, Inc.

PETITIONER: Reno, Attorney General, et al.
RESPONDENT: Catholic Social Services, Inc., et al.
LOCATION: Superior Court of the District of Columbia

DOCKET NO.: 91-1826
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 509 US 43 (1993)
ARGUED: Jan 11, 1993
DECIDED: Jun 18, 1993

Ralph S. Abascal - on behalf of the Respondents
Ronald J. Mann - on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Reno v. Catholic Social Services, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 11, 1993 in Reno v. Catholic Social Services, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument next in number 91-1826, William P. Barr, Attorney General, v. Catholic Social Services.

Mr. Mann, you may proceed.

Ronald J. Mann:

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

This case arises out of the provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that granted amnesty to certain longstanding illegal aliens.

The case presents two class actions challenging regulations the attorney general promulgated to interpret eligibility requirements under the act.

In one case a regulation interpreting a proviso that allowed an alien to gain relief even if he had brief, casual, and innocent absences from the United States, in the other a regulation interpreting the requirement that the aliens' immigration status have been continuously unlawful since 1982.

In each case a class of aliens filed suit in a Federal district court in California and secured a ruling holding the challenged regulations invalid.

Both of the district courts then proceeded to require INS to grant the benefit of the ruling not only to aliens who filed applications before the program expired, but also to aliens who applied after the deadline in May 1988.

The Government appealed and the Ninth Circuit affirmed.

Those orders have continued in effect while the case has been pending and INS has been obligated to continue accepting applications for the more than 4-1/2 years since May 1988.

It has accepted about 300,000 so far.

In our view the decision of the court of appeals is wrong for two separate reasons.

First, the district court did not have jurisdiction to review INS determinations regarding whether or not members of the respondent class were eligible for relief under the act.

And second, even if it did have jurisdiction it was improper for the district courts to grant relief to aliens who failed to apply before the program expired in May of 1988.

On the first question the key factor is the framework for judicial and administrative review set forth in section 1255a(f).

On its face that framework bars any immediate judicial review of a decision denying an application.

Rather, an alien can seek relief from a court only after deportation proceedings have been instituted and completed and the alien is subject to a final order of deportation.

Thus although the statute allowed aliens to seek relief from the agency while retaining their confidentiality and anonymity, they could not obtain judicial review of an adverse agency decision without giving up their fugitive status, either by surrendering--

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, now did the... did INS, in your view, have authority to determine that the regulations were invalid in a... in an ordinary proceeding brought by an alien?

Ronald J. Mann:


INS is bound by regulations that are issued by the attorney general.

Sandra Day O'Connor:


Ronald J. Mann:

And so if an alien had filed an application for relief, and many aliens in this situation did, the application would have been denied and undoubtedly the denial would have been affirmed by the legalization appeals unit if the regulation remained valid at the time the appeal was taken.

The regulations were withdrawn before the... just before the application period expired, so some of the adjudications would not yet have been determined by the legalization appeals unit.

But what that would do is that would place that alien in exactly the same situation as any alien whose application was denied.

For example, if the INS determined as a fact that the alien first entered the United States in 1983 his application would be denied.

The LAU, if it agreed that the evidence in the record supported that, would deny the... would deny the appeal and the alien could do nothing.

If the alien wanted to challenge that, he would have to give himself up and submit to our immigration laws and then challenge it in the court of appeals after deportation proceedings.

Sandra Day O'Connor:

Well, didn't we have a virtually identical provision before us in McNary against the Haitian refugees?

Ronald J. Mann:

Yes, in... in... in the relevant respects we believe the jurisdictional provisions in McNary were the same as these, and the difference is that this case involves a different type of claim.