Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc.

PETITIONER: Chris Sale, Acting Commissioner, Immigration And Naturalization Service, et al.
RESPONDENT: Haitian Centers Council, Inc., et al.
LOCATION: White House

DOCKET NO.: 92-344
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 509 US 155 (1993)
ARGUED: Mar 02, 1993
DECIDED: Jun 21, 1993

Harold Hongju Koh - on behalf of the Respondents
Maureen E. Mahoney - Deputy Solicitor General, Department of Justice, on behalf of the Petitioners

Facts of the case

According to Executive Order No. 12807 signed by President George H. W. Bush in 1992, the Coast Guard was required to force the return of all passengers discovered illegally traveling by sea from Haiti to the United States before reaching its borders without determining whether they qualify as refugees. The Haitian Centers Council, Inc., a collection of organizations representing illegal Haitian aliens and Haitians detained at Guantanamo, requested that the District Court for the Eastern District of New York delay the implementation of the order. The council argued that the order violated section 243(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 and Article 33 of the United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees which protect individuals escaping potential prosecution from forced repatriation. The District Court denied the council's request, but the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed.


Is Executive Order No. 12807 a violation of section 243(h) or Article 33?

Media for Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 02, 1993 in Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc.

William H. Rehnquist:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Number 92-344, Chris Sale, Acting Commissioner, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service v. The Haitian Centers Council, Inc.--

Ms. Mahoney.

Maureen E. Mahoney:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

This case concerns the scope of the President's emergency powers to adopt measures that he deems to be necessary to prevent a mass migration of aliens across the high seas and to the ability of the alien migrants to challenge those measures in United States courts.

Last May, in the first 20 days, more than 10,000 Haitians crowded into unseaworthy vessels and set sail for our shores.

The President determined that he could not stop this migration while continuing to offer the migrants any kind of asylum screening on board Coast Guard cutters or at off-shore locations such as Guantanamo.

He accordingly concluded that a change in the procedures was required in order to stop the migration and to save lives that he concluded would be lost if that number of people continued to flow out of Haiti in the vessels which are clearly unseaworthy.

He accordingly invoked his powers under the Immigration & Nationality Act, which are in the nature of emergency powers, to adopt the procedure that he thought were necessary, and those procedures provided that the Coast Guard should directly repatriate Haitians without asylum screening but that persons who genuinely feared persecution should be given an opportunity to seek admission as a refugee through asylum processing at the embassy.

William H. Rehnquist:

Ms. Mahoney, was this directive aimed at any Haitians who were leaving Haiti, or just Haitians who were leaving Haiti for the United States?

Maureen E. Mahoney:

It's directed at Haitians who were leaving for the United States.

The executive order directs the Coast Guard to determine whether they have reason to believe that undocumented aliens are seeking entry into United States territorial waters, and the Coast Guard has enforced it in that way.

Once the procedures were changed, the exodus that had begun a number of months before was halted.

They were effective.

The problem that we face now is that the threat of the out-migration continues because the underlying conditions in Haiti that have caused people to wish to leave their country... a variety of political and economic conditions... continue to persist.

The President has accordingly determined that in order to prevent mass migration, just as last May, and also to prevent loss of life at sea, perhaps hundreds or thousands, the policy of direct repatriation must continue, but the President has also directed that efforts be made to fully fund the asylum processing in Haiti so that those who wish to come to the United States because they genuinely fear persecution will have an opportunity to adjudicate those claims expeditiously in Haiti and flee Haiti through those orderly procedures.

David H. Souter:

Ms. Mahoney, you don't claim that section 1253(h) is unconstitutional, I take it?

Maureen E. Mahoney:

No, Your Honor, we're not claiming that it's unconstitutional.

David H. Souter:

Has any effort been made to amend the statute?

Maureen E. Mahoney:

Since this occurred?

David H. Souter:


Maureen E. Mahoney:

Not that I know of.

I don't believe that... a bill might have been introduced, I really can't say, but nothing has certainly gotten very far.

The Coast Guard is accordingly still under orders from the President to interdict Haitians and to repatriate them without conducting asylum screening.

The court of appeals, nevertheless, told... directed the commandant of the Coast Guard to disregard the procedures that had been established by the President and to resort to the procedures that had been suspended by the President last year in the national interest.

We respectfully ask this Court to reverse the order of the court of appeals and to permit the 20 military vessels that are currently stationed off the coast of Haiti to operate under the direction of the Coast Guard and the President and not the Federal courts.

William H. Rehnquist:

Ms. Mahoney, after the court of appeal's ruling last spring, was an injunction actually entered by the district court?

Maureen E. Mahoney:

Yes, it was, Your Honor, but this Court stayed it.

William H. Rehnquist:

And was... did the injunction... was it directed against the Commandant of the Coast Guard and the Commandant of the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, too?

Maureen E. Mahoney:

Yes, I believe that it was directed against all of the defendants, and definitely against the Commandant of the Coast Guard.

William H. Rehnquist:

What did it command them to do?