472 U.S. 846 (1985), 84-5240, Jean v. Nelson

Docket Nº:No. 84-5240
Citation:472 U.S. 846, 105 S.Ct. 2992, 86 L.Ed.2d 664, 53 U.S.L.W. 4892
Party Name:Jean v. Nelson
Case Date:June 26, 1985
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 846

472 U.S. 846 (1985)

105 S.Ct. 2992, 86 L.Ed.2d 664, 53 U.S.L.W. 4892

Jean

v.

Nelson

No. 84-5240

United States Supreme Court

June 26, 1985

Argued March 25, 1985

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner named representatives of a class of undocumented and unadmitted aliens from Haiti filed suit in Federal District Court alleging that the change by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from a policy of general parole for undocumented aliens seeking admission to a policy, based on no statute or regulation, of detention without parole for aliens who could not present a prima facie case for admission was unlawful because it did not comply with the notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). It was further alleged that the restrictive parole policy, as executed by INS officers in the field, violated the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment because it discriminated against petitioners on the basis of race and national origin. The District Court held for petitioners on the APA claim, but concluded that they had failed to prove discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. The court then enjoined future use of the restrictive parole policy, but stayed the injunction to permit the INS to promulgate a new parole policy in compliance with the APA. The INS promptly promulgated a new rule that prohibits the consideration of race or national origin. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals held that the APA claim was moot because the Government was no longer detaining any class members under the invalidated policy, and that the Fifth Amendment did not apply to the consideration of unadmitted aliens for parole. The court then remanded the case to the District Court to permit review of the INS officials' discretion under the new nondiscriminatory rule.

Held: Because the current statutes and regulations provide petitioners with nondiscriminatory parole consideration, there was no need for the Court of Appeals to address the constitutional issue, but it properly remanded the case to the District Court. On remand, the District Court must consider (1) whether INS officials exercised their discretion under the statute to make individualized parole determinations, and (2) whether they exercised this discretion under the statutes and regulations without regard to race or national origin. Such remand protects the class members from the very conduct they fear, and the fact that the protection results from a regulation or statute, rather than from a constitutional

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holding, is a necessary consequence of the obligation of all federal courts to avoid constitutional adjudication except where necessary. Pp. 853-857.

727 F.2d 957, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 858.

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REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners, the named representatives of a class of undocumented and unadmitted aliens from Haiti, sued respondent Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). They alleged, inter alia, that they had been denied parole by INS officials on the basis of race and national origin. See 711 F.2d 1455 (CA11 1983) (panel opinion) (Jean I). The en banc Eleventh Circuit concluded that any such [105 S.Ct. 2994] discrimination concerning parole would not violate the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution because of the Government's plenary authority to control the Nation's borders. That court remanded the case to the District Court for consideration of petitioners' claim that their treatment violated INS regulations, which did not authorize consideration of race or national origin in determining whether or not an excludable alien should be paroled. 727 F.2d 957 (1984) (Jean II). We granted certiorari. 469 U.S. 1071. We conclude that the Court of Appeals should not have reached and decided the parole question on constitutional grounds, but we affirm its judgment remanding the case to the District Court.

Petitioners arrived in this country sometime after May 1981, and represent a part of the recent influx of undocumented excludable aliens who have attempted to migrate from the Caribbean basin to south Florida. Section 235(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 66 Stat.199, 8 U.S.C. § 1225(b), provides that

[e]very alien . . . who may not appear to the examining immigration officer at the port of arrival to be clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to land shall be detained for further inquiry to be conducted by a special inquiry officer.

Section 212(d)(5)(A) of the Act, 66 Stat. 188, as amended, 8 U.S.C. § 1182(d)(5)(A), authorizes the Attorney General "in his discretion" to parole into the United States any such alien applying for admission "under such conditions as he may prescribe for emergent reasons or for reasons deemed strictly in the public interest." The

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statute further provides that such parole shall not be regarded as an admission of the alien, and that the alien shall be returned to custody when in the opinion of the Attorney General the purposes of the parole have been served.

For almost 30 years before 1981, the INS had followed a policy of general parole for undocumented aliens arriving on our shores seeking admission to this country. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, however, large numbers of undocumented aliens arrived in south Florida, mostly from Haiti and Cuba. Concerned about this influx of undocumented aliens, the Attorney General, in the first half of 1981, ordered the INS to detain without parole any immigrants who could not present a prima facie case for admission. The aliens were to remain in detention pending a decision on their admission or exclusion. This new policy of detention rather than parole was not based on a new statute or regulation. By July 31, 1981, it was fully in operation in south Florida.

Petitioners, incarcerated and denied parole, filed suit in June 1981, seeking a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 and declaratory and injunctive relief. The amended complaint set forth two claims pertinent here. First, petitioners alleged that the INS's change in policy was unlawfully effected without observance of the notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 553. Petitioners also alleged that the restrictive parole policy, as executed by INS officers in the field, violated the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment because it discriminated against petitioners on the basis of race and national origin. Specifically, petitioners alleged that they were impermissibly denied parole because they were black and Haitian.

The District Court certified the class as

all Haitian aliens who have arrived in the Southern District of Florida on or after May 20, 1981, who are applying for entry into the United States and who are presently in detention pending exclusion proceedings . . . for whom an order of exclusion has

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not been entered. . . .

Louis v. Nelson, 544 F.Supp. 1004, 1005 (SD Fla.1982). After discovery and a 6-week bench trial the District Court held for petitioners on the APA claim, but concluded that petitioners had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence discrimination on the basis of race or national origin in the denial of parole. Louis v. Nelson, 544 F.Supp. 973 (1982); see also id. at 1004.

[105 S.Ct. 2995] The District Court held that, because the new policy of detention and restrictive parole was not promulgated in accordance with APA rulemaking procedures, the INS policy under which petitioners were incarcerated was "null and void," and the prior policy of general parole was restored to "full force and effect," 544 F.Supp. at 1006. The District Court ordered the release on parole of all incarcerated class members, about 1,700 in number. See ibid. Additionally, the court enjoined the INS from enforcing a rule of detaining unadmitted aliens until the INS complied with the APA rulemaking process, 5 U.S.C. §§ 552, 553.

Under the District Court's order, the INS retained the discretion to detain unadmitted aliens who were deemed a security risk or likely to abscond, or who had serious mental or physical ailments. The court's order also subjected the paroled class members to certain conditions, such as compliance with the law and attendance at required INS proceedings. The court retained jurisdiction over any class member whose parole might be revoked for violating the conditions of parole.

Although all class members were released on parole forthwith, the District Court imposed a 30-day stay upon its order enjoining future use of the INS's policy of incarceration without parole. The purpose of this stay was to permit the INS to promulgate a new parole policy in compliance with the APA. The INS promulgated this new rule promptly. See 8 CFR § 212.5 (1985); 47 Fed.Reg. 30044 (1982), as amended, 47 Fed.Reg. 46494 (1982). Both petitioners and respondents

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agree that this new rule requires even-handed treatment and prohibits the consideration of race and national origin in the parole decision. Except for the initial 30-day stay, the District Court's injunction against the prior INS policy ended the unwritten INS policy put into place in the first half of 1981. Some 100 to 400 members of the class are currently in detention; most of these have violated the terms of their parole, but some may have arrived in this country after the District Court's judgment.1 It is certain, however, that no...

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