McNary v. Haitian Refugee Ctr., Inc.
Annotate this Case
498 U.S. 479 (1991)
U.S. Supreme Court
McNary v. Haitian Refugee Ctr., Inc., 498 U.S. 479 (1991)
McNary v. Haitian Refugee Center, Inc.
Argued Oct. 29, 1990
Decided Feb. 20, 1991
498 U.S. 479
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (Reform Act) amended the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) creating, inter alia, a "Special Agricultural Workers" (SAW) amnesty program for specified alien farmworkers. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) determined SAW status eligibility based on evidence presented at a personal interview with each applicant. Section 210(e)(1) of the INA barred judicial review "of a determination respecting an application" except in the context of judicial review of a deportation order, a review conducted by the courts of appeals. Respondents, the Haitian Refugee Center and unsuccessful individual SAW applicants, filed a class action in the District Court, alleging that the initial application review process was conducted in an arbitrary manner in violation of the Reform Act and the applicants' due process rights under the Fifth Amendment. While recognizing that individual aliens could not obtain judicial review of denials of their SAW status applications except in deportation proceedings in the courts of appeals, the District Court accepted jurisdiction because the complaint did not challenge any individual determination of any application for SAW status, but rather contained allegations about the manner in which the entire program was being implemented. The court found that a number of INS practices violated the Reform Act and were unconstitutional, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Held: The District Court had federal question jurisdiction to hear respondents' constitutional and statutory challenges to the INS procedures. Pp. 498 U. S. 491-499.
(a) There is no clear congressional language mandating preclusion of jurisdiction. Section 210(e)(1)'s language prohibiting judicial review "of a determination respecting an application" refers to the process of direct review of individual denials of SAW status, not to general collateral challenges to unconstitutional practices and policies used by the INS in processing applications. The reference to "a determination" describes a single act, as does the language of § 210(e)(3), which provides for "judicial review of such a denial." Section 210(e)(3)(B), which specifies that judicial review is to be based on the administrative record, and that factual
determinations contained in such a record shall be conclusive absent a showing of an abuse of discretion, supports this reading. A record emerging from the administrative appeals process does not address the kind of procedural and constitutional claims respondents have brought, and the abuse-of-discretion standard does not apply to constitutional or statutory determinations, which are subject to de novo review. Limiting judicial review of general constitutional and statutory challenges to the provisions set forth in § 210(e) therefore is not contemplated. Moreover, had Congress intended the limited review provisions of § 210(e) to encompass challenges to INS procedures and practices, it could easily have used broader statutory language. Pp. 498 U. S. 481-494.
(b) As a practical matter, the individual respondents would be unable to obtain meaningful judicial review of their application denials or of their objections to INS procedures if they were required to avail themselves of the INA's limited judicial review procedures. Under the statutory scheme, review of an individual determination would be limited to the administrative record, which respondents have alleged is inadequate; aliens would have to surrender themselves for deportation in order to receive any judicial review, which is tantamount to a complete denial of such review; and a court of appeals reviewing an individual determination would most likely not have an adequate record as to a pattern of allegedly unconstitutional practices, and would lack a district court's factfinding and record-developing capabilities. Given this Court's well settled presumption favoring interpretations of statutes that allow judicial review of administrative action, the Court cannot conclude that Congress so intended to foreclose all forms of meaningful judicial review of SAW application denials and general collateral challenges to INS procedures. This case is therefore controlled by Bowen v. Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, 476 U. S. 667, which interpreted the Medicare statute to permit individuals to challenge a payment regulation's validity even though the statute barred judicial review of individual claims for payment under the regulation. Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U. S. 602, distinguished. Pp. 498 U. S. 494-499.
872 F.2d 1555 (CA 11 1989), affirmed.
STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, and SOUTER, JJ., joined, and in Parts I, II, III, and IV of which WHITE, J., joined. REHNQUIST, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, J., joined, 498 U. S. 499.
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