Access to Justice

RELEASE: Supreme Court Removes Roadblocks for Asylum-Seekers Seeking Access to Courts

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the Supreme Court’s announcement of its decision in Santos-Zacaria v. Garland, in which a unanimous Supreme Court issued a rare victory for a noncitizen seeking judicial review of the government’s decision denying her humanitarian protection in the United States,  Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) Appellate Counsel Smita Ghosh had this reaction:

Today the Court concluded that the statutory requirement that non-citizens take advantage of all administrative remedies within the immigration court system before filing in federal court is not jurisdictional and therefore can be waived by the government or excused by judges in exceptional circumstances.

Echoing the arguments in an amici curiae brief we filed along with the National Immigration Litigation Alliance, the Court explained that the statutory requirement is not jurisdictional because, among other things, Congress did not use the sort of clear language necessary to impose the harsh consequences of a jurisdictional requirement.

The Court also held that noncitizens do not need to petition an appeals board for reconsideration of every immigration decision before bringing a case to federal court.

In reaching this result, the Court removes some of the many roadblocks facing noncitizens seeking review of the government’s decision to remove them from the country.  This result is especially important because noncitizens in removal proceedings frequently have limited English proficiency, are not guaranteed legal representation, and are often subject to mandatory detention during their proceedings.

Today’s decision is an important victory for noncitizens trying to navigate our complicated immigration system—and for access to the courts.



Amici curiae brief in Santos-Zacaria v. Garland:


Constitutional Accountability Center is a nonpartisan think tank and public interest law firm dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of the Constitution’s text, history, and values. Visit CAC’s website at


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