Supreme Court upholds visa denial in widely followed case

15 Jun 15

UNITED STATES

A divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the government did not need to provide a California woman a detailed explanation as to why it rejected her husband’s application for a visa to join her in the United States.

Fauzia Din, a U.S. citizen, married an Afghan man in 2006 and had hoped to bring him to the U.S. to live with her. The State Department rejected his visa application, citing a wide-ranging federal law that bars entry to foreigners involved in “terrorist activities.” The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that Din was entitled to a “facially legitimate reason” for the visa denial.

At the Supreme Court, a five-justice majority ruled against Din, but did not adopt uniform reasoning.

Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote that Din did not have a constitutional claim to challenge the visa denial.

“Because Fauzia Din was not deprived of ‘life, liberty, or property’ when the Government denied her husband admission to the United States, there is no process due to her under the Constitution,” Scalia wrote. “To the extent that she received any explanation for the Government’s decision, this was more than the Due Process Clause required.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, wrote that the Court did not need to decide whether the Due Process Clause applied to Din’s case because, in Justice Kennedy’s view, Din did, in fact, receive due process when the government barred her husband’s entry.

“The Government satisfied any obligation it might have had to provide Din with a facially legitimate and bona fide reason for its action when it provided notice that her husband was denied admission to the country under [the federal statute],” Kennedy wrote.

Four justices dissented. Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, wrote that Din possessed a liberty interest to live with her husband in the United States and that the government had failed to provide an adequate explanation for the visa denial.

Arguments in the case, Kerry v. Din, were heard in February. The American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigrant Justice Center filed an amicus brief in support of Din.

“Absent at least limited judicial review, manifest injustice inevitably will result particularly in circumstances, like those in this case, where a consular official explains the denial of a visa application by offering only a bald citation to a broad and multi-faceted statutory provision,” the organizations wrote in their brief.

BAL Analysis: On the whole, the decision is a disappointment for those who hoped to force the government to provide more detailed explanations for visa denials. In cases such as Kerry v. Din, where the majority does not adopt the same reasoning, the narrower opinion usually controls in lower courts. Justice Kennedy’s opinion, the narrower of the two, does not completely shut the door on U.S. nationals who want to go to court if a foreign spouse is denied a visa. However, given Justice Kennedy’s willingness to accept the government’s explanation in Din’s case, lower courts may accept even cursory explanations for visa denials.

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