Dada v. Mukasey

The Case: U.S. Supreme Court decision on a principle of immigration law

Date: Decided on June 16, 2008

Significance: The Dada decision recognized the right of immigrants to pursue motions to reopen their cases after agreeing to voluntary departure, thereby permitting such immigrants to present new facts to immigration officials.

Samson Dada, a citizen of Nigeria, entered the United States in 1998 on a temporary visa. Although he was married to a U.S. citizen, the couple had failed to submit the required documentation to secure Dada a permanent residence visa. When the federal government ordered Dada’s removal in 2004, he had the choice of voluntarily departing within sixty days or filing a motion to have his case reconsidered. By agreeing to a voluntary departure, he maintained some reentry privileges, and by skillful maneuvering around bureaucratic rules, he managed to remain in the country almost eight more years. When the government finally ordered his removal in February, 2006, Dada requested that his case be reopened, which would permit him to present new evidence. The government denied the request. Dada then petitioned the court of appeals for relief, which was denied on November 28, 2006. He petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was accepted.

By a 5-4 margin, the Supreme Court held that persons must be permitted to withdraw their requests for voluntary departure if they do so before the final deadlines for their departure. However, the decision was not a complete victory for aliens because the Court specifically declined to hold that the deadline for voluntary departure would be stayed while the motion to reopen was pending. Thus, aliens subject to departure continued to have a difficult choice to make. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a dissenting opinion, insisting that an alien agreeing to depart voluntarily should not have any opportunity to change his mind. Justice Samuel Alito also filed a dissent, arguing that immigration officials should have the discretion of accepting or denying the withdrawal of an agreement to a voluntary withdrawal.

Thomas Tandy Lewis

Further Reading

  • Aleinikoff, Thomas, et al. Immigration and Citizenship: Process and Policy. 6th ed. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group, 2008. 
  • Gordon, Charles, Stanley Mailman, and Stephen Yale-Loehr. Immigration Law and Procedure. New York: Matthew Bender, 2001. 

See also: Citizenship; Congress, U.S.; Constitution, U.S.; Immigration law; Supreme Court, U.S.

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