Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Transgender Asylum Seeker
A Defeat for the Biden Administration
In a unanimous decision on May 11, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a transgender illegal alien from Guatemala seeking asylum. The individual, who identifies as a woman and uses the name Estrella, claimed that she would face persecution if forced to return to her home country. The ruling is a defeat for the Biden administration and is expected to make it easier for those challenging deportation to make their case.
Technical Ruling Gives Another Opportunity to Fight Deportation
The highly technical ruling also gives Estrella another opportunity to fight deportation. During oral arguments, neither her sexual orientation nor gender identity was discussed. Instead, the hearing focused on issues related to procedural law.
Not Related to Title 42 Policy
The decision is not related to the administration’s plan to end the so-called Title 42 policy, which allows the rapid expulsion of illegal aliens crossing the U.S.-Mexico border on public health grounds.
Details of the Case
Estrella entered the United States illegally at least twice and was removed to Guatemala in 2008 and 2012. She came back to the United States in 2018 and, after being detained, applied for something called withholding of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and for sanctuary under the Convention Against Torture.
The INA states that an alien unlawfully present in the country may be deported after the U.S. Department of Justice issues a final order of removal, but Congress restricts the deportation destination. An alien may not be removed to a country where his or her “life or freedom would be threatened … because of the alien’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” LGBT individuals are included in the “particular social group” category.
Exhaustion Rule Not Jurisdictional
The Supreme Court found in its new ruling that the exhaustion rule, which requires individuals to exhaust their administrative remedies, does not meet a high enough bar to be considered “jurisdictional.” The court held that despite the exhaustion requirement, the rule does not prevent the judiciary from granting equitable exceptions.
Remanded for Further Proceedings
The Supreme Court remanded the case to the lower courts “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” Justice Samuel Alito filed a brief statement concurring with the judgment of the court, saying he did not believe it was necessary to decide if the exhaustion rule was jurisdictional. Justice Clarence Thomas joined the statement.
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