498 U.S. 479 (1991), 89-1332, McNary v. Haitian Refugee Center, Inc.

Docket Nº:No. 89-1332
Citation:498 U.S. 479, 111 S.Ct. 888, 112 L.Ed.2d 1005, 59 U.S.L.W. 4128
Party Name:McNary v. Haitian Refugee Center, Inc.
Case Date:February 20, 1991
Court:United States Supreme Court

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498 U.S. 479 (1991)

111 S.Ct. 888, 112 L.Ed.2d 1005, 59 U.S.L.W. 4128



Haitian Refugee Center, Inc.

No. 89-1332

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 20, 1991

Argued Oct. 29, 1990




The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (Reform Act) amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) creating, inter alia, a "Special Agricultural Workers" (SAW) amnesty program for specified alien farmworkers. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) determined SAW status eligibility based on evidence presented at a personal interview with each applicant. Section 210(e)(1) of the INA barred judicial review "of a determination respecting an application" except in the context of judicial review of a deportation order, a review conducted by the courts of appeals. Respondents, the Haitian Refugee Center and unsuccessful individual SAW applicants, filed a class action in the District Court, alleging that the initial application review process was conducted in an arbitrary manner in violation of the Reform Act and the applicants' due process rights under the Fifth Amendment. While recognizing that individual aliens could not obtain judicial review of denials of their SAW status applications except in deportation proceedings in the courts of appeals, the District Court accepted jurisdiction because the complaint did not challenge any individual determination of any application for SAW status, but rather contained allegations about the manner in which the entire program was being implemented. The court found that a number of INS practices violated the Reform Act and were unconstitutional, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: The District Court had federal question jurisdiction to hear respondents' constitutional and statutory challenges to the INS procedures. Pp. 491-499.

[111 S.Ct. 890] (a) There is no clear congressional language mandating preclusion of jurisdiction. Section 210(e)(1)'s language prohibiting judicial review "of a determination respecting an application" refers to the process of direct review of individual denials of SAW status, not to general collateral challenges to unconstitutional practices and policies used by the INS in processing applications. The reference to "a determination" describes a single act, as does the language of § 210(e)(3), which provides for "judicial review of such a denial." Section 210(e)(3)(B), which specifies that judicial review is to be based on the administrative record, and that factual

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determinations contained in such a record shall be conclusive absent a showing of an abuse of discretion, supports this reading. A record emerging from the administrative appeals process does not address the kind of procedural and constitutional claims respondents have brought, and the abuse-of-discretion standard does not apply to constitutional or statutory determinations, which are subject to de novo review. Limiting judicial review of general constitutional and statutory challenges to the provisions set forth in § 210(e) therefore is not contemplated. Moreover, had Congress intended the limited review provisions of § 210(e) to encompass challenges to INS procedures and practices, it could easily have used broader statutory language. Pp. 481-494.

(b) As a practical matter, the individual respondents would be unable to obtain meaningful judicial review of their application denials or of their objections to INS procedures if they were required to avail themselves of the INA's limited judicial review procedures. Under the statutory scheme, review of an individual determination would be limited to the administrative record, which respondents have alleged is inadequate; aliens would have to surrender themselves for deportation in order to receive any judicial review, which is tantamount to a complete denial of such review; and a court of appeals reviewing an individual determination would most likely not have an adequate record as to a pattern of allegedly unconstitutional practices, and would lack a district court's factfinding and record-developing capabilities. Given this Court's well settled presumption favoring interpretations of statutes that allow judicial review of administrative action, the Court cannot conclude that Congress so intended to foreclose all forms of meaningful judicial review of SAW application denials and general collateral challenges to INS procedures. This case is therefore controlled by Bowen v. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, 476 U.S. 667, which interpreted the Medicare statute to permit individuals to challenge a payment regulation's validity even though the statute barred judicial review of individual claims for payment under the regulation. Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U.S. 602, distinguished. Pp. 494-499.

872 F.2d 1555 (CA 11 1989), affirmed.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined, and in Parts I, II, III, and IV of which WHITE, J., joined. REHNQUIST, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined, 499.

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STEVENS, J., lead opinion

Justice STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (Reform Act)[1] constituted a major statutory response to the vast tide of illegal immigration that had produced a "shadow population" of literally millions of undocumented aliens in the United States.

On the one hand, Congress sought to stem [111 S.Ct. 891] the tide by making the plight of the undocumented alien even more onerous in the future than it had been in the past; thus, the Reform Act imposed criminal sanctions on employers who hired undocumented workers[2] and made a number

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of federally funded welfare benefits unavailable to these aliens.[3] On the other hand, in recognition that a large segment of the shadow population played a useful and constructive role in the American economy,[4] but continued to reside in perpetual fear,[5] the Reform Act established two broad

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amnesty programs to allow existing undocumented aliens to emerge from the shadows.

The first amnesty program permitted any alien who had resided in the United States continuously and unlawfully since January 1, 1982, to qualify for an adjustment of his or her status to that of a lawful permanent resident. See 100 Stat. 3394, as amended, 8 U.S.C. § 1255a. The second program required the Attorney General to adjust the status of any alien farmworker who could establish that he or she had resided in the United States and performed at least 90 days of qualifying agricultural work during the 12-month period prior to May 1, 1986, provided that the alien could also establish his or her admissibility in the United States as an immigrant. The Reform Act required the Attorney General first to adjust the status of these aliens to "Special Agricultural Workers" (SAW) lawfully admitted for temporary residence, see 100 Stat. 3417, as amended, 8 U.S.C. § 1160(a)(1), and then eventually to aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence, see § 1160(a)(2).

This case relates only to the SAW amnesty program. Although additional issues were resolved by the District Court and the Court [111 S.Ct. 892] of Appeals, the only question presented to us is whether § 210(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which was added by § 302(a) of the Reform Act and sets forth the administrative and judicial review provisions of the SAW program, see 8 U.S.C. § 1160(e), precludes a federal district court from exercising general federal question jurisdiction over an action alleging a pattern or practice of procedural due process violations by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in its administration of the SAW program. We hold that, given the absence of clear congressional

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language mandating preclusion of federal jurisdiction and the nature of respondents' requested relief, the District Court had jurisdiction to hear respondents' constitutional and statutory challenges to INS procedures. Were we to hold otherwise and instead require respondents to avail themselves of the limited judicial review procedures set forth in § 210(e) of the INA, meaningful judicial review of their statutory and constitutional claims would be foreclosed.


The Reform Act provided three important benefits to an applicant for SAW status. First, the mere filing of a "nonfrivolous application" entitled the alien to a work authorization that would remain valid during the entire period that the application was being processed. See 8 U.S.C. § 1160(d)(2)(B). Second, regardless of the disposition of the application, the Reform Act expressly prohibited the Government from using any information in the application for enforcement purposes. Thus, the application process could not be used as a means of identifying deportable aliens; rather, the initiation of a deportation proceeding had to be based on evidence obtained from an independent source. See § 1160(b)(6). Third, if SAW status was granted, the alien became a lawful temporary resident, see § 1160(a)(1), and, in due course, could obtain the status of a permanent resident, see § 1160(a)(2).

In recognition that the fear of prosecution or deportation would cause many undocumented aliens to be reluctant to come forward and disclose their illegal status, the Reform Act directed the Attorney General to enlist the assistance of a variety of nonfederal organizations to encourage aliens to apply and to provide them with counsel and assistance during the application process. These "Qualified Designated Entities" (QDE), which included private entities such as farm labor organizations and associations of agricultural

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employers as well as qualified state, local, and community groups, were not allowed to forward applications for SAW status to the Attorney...

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