Sixth Circuit Holds Motions to Reopen Permissible from Outside the U.S.

In a landmark decision, the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has rebuked the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) for preventing non-citizens from reopening their cases from outside the United Sates. By calling on the BIA to abandon its misguided regulation of barring foreign citizens from submitting motions for their case, it is certainly an important decision that would change the legal precedent utilized to decide subsequent immigration cases. In its ruling, the Sixth Circuit declared that the BIA’s interpretation of the law “has no roots in any statutory source and misapprehends the authority delegated to the Board by Congress.”

This decision comes in reaction to the federal law that gives non-citizens the right to file motions to submit new evidence after they have been issued final orders of removal- a law that has been largely ignored by the BIA given their stance on refusing to consider any motions from a foreign national if he is not physically in the U.S. at the time of the appeal. Because the policy adopted by the BIA was- in practice- regarded as an incentive to expedite a non-citizen’s case and deport them from the country before they could have an opportunity to submit evidence that could change the outcome of their cases, the end result was largely portrayed as a harsh reduction in due process rights. As such, the Appellate Court’s decision is meant to undercut this deleterious injustice by upholding the federal law already in place, and thus permitting non-citizens the opportunity to appeal to the BIA for review of their unfavorable decision regarding their immigration case.

This monumental decision was furthered by a Russian man named Vakhtang Pruidze who was deported from the U.S. because of a minor offense in Michigan. Less than two weeks after he was removed, the criminal court vacated his conviction; at which point he tried to reopen his immigration case but was prevented of doing so because of the BIA’s refusal to consider the motion while he was physically not within U.S. jurisdiction. Mr. Pruidze then went ahead and appealed to another judicial body, the result of which produced this benchmark decision. Triana Realmuto, an attorney of the National Immigration Project, said, “The Sixth Circuit recognized that the regulation deprives non-citizens of their statutory right to present new evidence in their cases. The decision corrects the government’s unlawful attempts to separate families and opens the door for them to return to the United States.

Because a motion may be the only method by which a non-citizen can have his case reviewed by an immigration judge in the hopes of being readmitted into the U.S., we regard the Appellate Court’s decision as a formidable attempt to reinstate justice into the system by focusing on insuring that the rights of all individuals- regardless of their nationality- are upheld, and that the means of attaining this outcome are uniformly extended to all without prejudice.

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