Immigration Law: Raise Your Hand If You Understand It

These days everyone, no matter her political stripe, apparently despises U.S. immigration law. It’s either too enforcement-heavy or too soft; too cruel or too generous to immigrants. But can we pause for a moment to talk about another, very basic problem? Immigration law is almost impossible to master. It is a messy patchwork of compromises stitched together over decades; a shotgun wedding of often incompatible provisions. Whatever metaphor you pick, the reality remains: the Immigration and Nationality Act is complex, counter-intuitive, and just plain confusing.

Justice Samuel Alito is apparently as perplexed as the rest of us. In his 2010 concurrence in the Supreme Court decision Padilla v. Kentucky, Alito described a passage in a well-known immigration text as “dizzying.” Dizzying indeed. Even our nation’s most qualified, brilliant jurists often trip over immigration provisions. 

One example is a 2012 decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Young v. Holder. Young was an en banc case, which means that a large number of judges and their clerks collaborated on it due to the significance of the disputed issues - eleven judges, to be precise. Despite this dazzling array of brainpower - and I state this with no irony whatsoever - the court confused two entirely different defenses to deportation, undoubtedly because they carry the same name.

To read the rest:

"Conditional Admission" and Other Mysteries: Setting the Record Straight on the "Admission" Status of Refugees and Asylees

Immigration Puzzle of the Week: Do We Deport People for Being Mentally Ill?