INS v. Abudu

485 U. S. 94

March 1, 1988

A doctor from Ghana was ordered to be deported in 1982. In 1985, that Doctor moved to reopen the case, and asked for asylum because of alleged political persecution he would face back in Ghana. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied his request, saying that Dr. Abudu had not even made a prima facie case for reopening. A Court of Appeals thought he had made a prima facie case, and ordered the BIA to reconsider. The BIA contended that their decisions could only be reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard, rather than the summary judgment standard that the Court of Appeals thought applicable.

Unanimously, the Court agreed with the BIA (Kennedy did not participate). The legal issue before the Court was very confused, and Justice Stevens spent most of the opinion trying to pin down exactly what was being decided. In the end, the ultimate final word was that BIA decisions about reopening or granting asylum were to be reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard, and under the facts of the case, discretion had clearly not been abused. This demanding standard was necessary, said Stevens, because there needs to be some finality in immigration adjudication. This was the correct ruling, but even so, I was surprised to see Brennan and Marshall concurring in it. I guess there are some cases where not even bleeding heart liberals can find a legal excuse to back the ‘underdog.’

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