JAMA v. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
03-674
Petitioner 
Keyse G. Jama
Respondent 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Advocates
(argued the cause for Petitioner)
(argued the cause for Respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

A Minnesota state court convicted Somalian refugee Keyse Jama of assault. As a result the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) argued in immigration court that Jama should be deported to Somalia. The court agreed and an immigration appeals court also agreed. Jama then appealed to a federal district court and argued the part of the U.S. Code dealing with deporting an alien to his country of birth required that country to first accept the alien. Because Somalia lacked a functioning central government, this was impossible. The district court ruled for Jama. A federal appellate court reversed and said Jama and the district court misinterpreted the law.

Question 

May immigration officials deport a person to his country of birth under 8 U.S.C. 1231(b)(2)(E)(iv), if that country lacks a functioning central government that is able to accept the person's return?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 8 U.S.C. 1231

Yes. Federal immigration law permitted an alien to be removed to a country without the advance consent of that country's government. Of the four removal options federal immigration law listed, an acceptance requirement appeared in only one clause: "...he shall be removed to another country whose government will accept him." That clause only applied after the attorney general attempted the prior deportation option. The grammatical "rule of the last antecedent," prevented "another" from applying to the earlier options. Nor did the law's structure impose an acceptance requirement. Moreover, contrary to Jama's argument, the acceptance requirement was hardly settled judicial interpretation.

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JAMA v. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 31 August 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_03_674>.
JAMA v. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_03_674 (last visited August 31, 2014).
"JAMA v. IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 31, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_03_674.