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NY judge questions Justice Department statements to Supreme Court

A New York U.S. District Judge is forcing the U.S. Department of Justice to correct and/or prove some statements it made to the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2009 immigration policy case. The high court's decision against immigrants facing detention and deportation was based on testimony from Justice Department attorneys who said that the government helps facilitate the return of deported aliens who win their citizenship appeals.

With no proof, immigration-rights groups and lawyers pressed the DOJ for examples where deportees received assistance to return to the U.S. However, government agencies -- including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of State, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- could not produce any such examples. When pressed, the government said there were emails between the agencies regarding its deportation policy, but they did not have to turn them over because they were exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

After more than two years of legal wrangling, the New York judge wrote that there was in fact reason to believe that the Supreme Court's 2009 decision was based on "inaccurate or distorted" information from the government agencies. He is allowing the government 60 days to appeal his findings. Consequently, ICE recently released a document describing their policy for facilitating the return of deportees who win their appeals in federal court. However, ICE could not say how many people had been assisted with their return to the states, or when the policy took effect.

Usually, an immigrant who goes to court to fight a contempt action or is allowed to return to the country after a long, hard-fought appeal does not get any attention or assistance without an attorney. It will be interesting to see if ICE will begin proactively facilitating the return of immigrants through transportation assistance.

Source: Wall Street Journal, "Immigration Case Challenges Justice Department's Credibility," Jess Bravin, March 13, 2012

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