A Supreme Court Immigration Ruling that's Not Worth Waiting For

By David North on January 8, 2014

There was a recent oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court on an immigration policy case.

The title of the case is Mayorkas v. Cuellar de Osario; a decision will be handed down this spring or early summer.

But if you are interested, as I am, in the number of immigrants and their characteristics, don't hold your breath. The decision, in those terms, is guaranteed to be of absolutely no significance.

That is not to say that it will not be important to a small group of would-be migrants in their twenties and maybe early thirties whose green cards are at stake; but the whole squabble is between competing factions of family (or chain) migrants.

Does the first set of them get to enter, thus delaying the admission of another set, or is the first set not going to be admitted? Whichever way the decision goes there will be no change in the total number of immigrants admitted, nor their characteristics, because the whole dispute is between different groups of would-be immigrants within the numerically-limited classes of family immigrants.

Congress has decided over the years that certain aliens who are children (i.e., unmarried and under 21) can be admitted with their parents when their parents, who are relatives of still other aliens, are allowed to enter the country. Ah, but what happens when those children pass their 21st birthday? Do they still get free passes on their parents' visas, or must they be treated like other aliens who have to apply for green cards on their own?

Without getting into the very thick weeds on this matter, the position of the government, and thus Mayorkas, is that Congress intended the grown-up alien children ("aged-out applicants" in immigration speak) not to have special rights. The other side (de Osario) says that the aged-out children should enter, thus shouldering aside still other alien relatives waiting in line to enter the country.

The immigration bar, needless to say, does not take my mountain-top point of view. You cannot tell from reading the long, lead article in the December 23 issue of Interpreter Releases, the staid trade paper of the immigration bar, that the case has no ultimate policy significance.

What you would read (if you had a subscription) is that the de Osario team favors the view that the law "unambiguously grants automatic conversion and priority date retention to aged-out derivative beneficiaries..." and similar exotica.

If anything, I guess I am pulling for the Mayorkas position. (That's Alejandro Mayorkas, the former USCIS Director and brand-new Deputy Secretary of DHS.) That position would kick some of the twenty-somethings out of the line and would actually subtract a few people from the waiting list, though I am pretty sure that is not the government's intent. The other side would add those names to the perpetual backlogs in the numerically limited relative classes. But no posture, on any side of the issues, would do anything to either diminish or expand the total flow of relatives into the country.

I can assure you that my suggestion that it would be useful to diminish the number of people on the waiting list was not heard by the Supremes. The entire argument was about the meaning of the legislation and the intent of Congress.

It is a pity that such an inconsequential matter, policy-wise, should get the attention of the Supreme Court when there are so many more significant immigration matters to worry about.