Justia Summary

Santos-Zacaria, a noncitizen in removal proceedings, was denied protection from removal. The Fifth Circuit dismissed Santos-Zacaria’s petition for review in part, finding that she had not satisfied 8 U.S.C. 1252(d)(1)’s (Judicial Review of Orders of Removal) exhaustion requirement, which it raised sua sponte based on its characterization of 1252(d)(1)’s exhaustion requirement as jurisdictional. Santos-Zacaria did not raise her impermissible fact-finding claim to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in a motion for reconsideration before filing her petition for judicial review.

The Supreme Court vacated in part. Section 1252(d)(1)’s exhaustion requirement is not jurisdictional. To ensure that courts impose the harsh consequences of jurisdictional rules only when Congress unmistakably has so instructed, a rule is treated as jurisdictional “only if Congress ‘clearly states’ that it is.” Section 1252(d)(1) lacks a clear statement. Exhaustion requirements are quintessential claim-processing rules, designed to promote efficiency in litigation. Section 1252(d)(1)’s language differs substantially from the jurisdictional language in related statutory provisions. Section 1252(d)(1) requires exhausting only remedies available “as of right,” meaning review that is guaranteed, not discretionary. Reconsideration by the BIA, however, is discretionary. The right to request discretionary review does not make a remedy available as of right. The Court noted the practical problems that would arise under the government’s interpretation.