Campos-Chaves v. Garland

On Friday, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in Campos-Chaves v. Garland (consolidated with Garland v. Singh, and Garland v. MendezColin). The case concerns the circumstances in which a noncitizen can move to rescind an in absentia removal order after receiving a defective Notice to Appear.

The Court had previously ruled that Notices to Appear (NTA) must specify the time and date of a noncitizen’s removal hearing, and that the government’s failure to provide this information renders an NTA invalid. On Friday, the Court ruled that even if a noncitizen receives an incomplete NTA, if they subsequently receive a notice of hearing specifying the date and time of their hearing and fail to attend, they are not eligible to apply for rescission of their removal order. The decision removes a key incentive for the government to issue legally compliant NTAs, and places greater burdens on noncitizens to protect their rights.

What You Need to Know

  • Law at Issue: Federal law requires that the government provide a written “notice to appear” (NTA) to individuals subject to deportation orders, which specifies “the time and place at which the proceedings will be held,” and a “notice of hearing” (NOH) if the time and place of the hearings are changed or postponed. Noncitizens who receive in absentia orders of removal can move to reopen their cases if they do not receive either statutorily required notice. For years, the government has sidestepped its legal obligations by issuing so-called NTAs with the time and place of hearings “TBD.” In the 2018 case Pereira v. Sessions, the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 that a document that fails to provide time and place information is “not a notice to appear.” The Court also remarked that a valid NOH presumes that the Government has already served an NTA that specifies a time and place because “otherwise, there would be no time or place to ‘change or postpone.”
  • Facts of this Case: Moris Esmelis Campos-Chaves, a citizen of El Salvador, entered the United States without legal authorization in January 2005. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) initiated deportation proceedings against him. He was initially served with an NTA that listed the time and location as “to be determined.” A subsequent NOH, with specific time and location information included, was later sent. Campos-Chaves did not appear at the hearing, and an immigration judge ordered his removal in absentia. In 2018, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Pereira, Campos-Chaves filed a motion to reopen his case because his NTA lacked place and time information. The immigration judge denied his motion, the Board of Immigration Appeals dismissed his appeal, and the Fifth Circuit denied Campos-Chaves’ petition to review the BIA decision.
  • Question Presented to the Court: Whether non-citizens who are ordered removed after being issued defective NTAs (lacking place and time information) supplemented by later NOHs (including places and dates) can move to reopen their cases.
  • What Happened at the Oral Argument: Justices from across the ideological spectrum expressed skepticism of the government’s arguments that noncitizens who have been ordered removed after receiving defective NTAs should not be allowed to reopen their cases. Several Justices emphasized the clear language of the statute and language from past SCOTUS decisions criticizing the government’s practice of issuing incomplete NTAs.
  • What Did the Court Decide?: The Court ruled that noncitizens who receive in absentia removal orders after receiving notice of the time and place of their removal hearing may not seek to have their removal orders rescinded, even if they never received a valid NTA. Justice Jackson (joined by Justices Sotomayor, Kagan and Gorsuch) wrote for the dissent, arguing that this ruling “defies the plain text and context of the statute, sidesteps our precedents, and upends the careful in absentia removal framework Congress has crafted.”
  • Practical Effect: The Court’s ruling forecloses relief for individuals subject to deportation orders who have received defective NTAs and may incentivize the government to continue to issue incomplete NTAs to noncitizens.