- Case Summary

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 25th Jun 2001
Wordcount: 578 words


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Legal Case Summary

Summary: Court case which decided immigrants cannot be barred from federal courts for rulings by the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service).


The plaintiffs, a group of immigrants facing deportation due to various criminal violations, filed a petition against the decisions of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). The petitioners challenged the applications of the amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act introduced by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). Accordingly, the law had overhauled procedures for deportation, limiting judicial review for certain categories of deportation cases. Primarily, cases with allegations of criminal activities had limited recourse to appeal.


The case dealt with the interpretative issues relative to the IIRIRA's amendments, namely, whether the habeas corpus review under 28 U.S.C. § 2241 was eliminated by §1252(e) for aliens whose removal was of criminal nature. The essential question was whether the Act barred federal courts from hearing the claims of the aliens under these circumstances, parking a broader issue of immigrants’ access to federal judiciary review.


This ruling was significant as it affirmed Federal courts’ jurisdiction over deportation cases. It ensured a system of check and balance for the work of the INS s and underscored the relevance of federal courts as proper avenues for immigrants to contest deportation. However, by indicating that any denial of the federal court review requires explicit Congressional intent, it effectively urged Congress to make its future intent unambiguous.


The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, reasserting the right of to federal court review through habeas corpus petitions. The Court decided that Congress had not made its intention to strip federal courts of the ability to hear these cases sufficiently clear. As such, it did not shut off habeas corpus petitions from reviewing decisions of the INS. The case was thereby not barred from being heard by federal courts.


  • CALCANO-MARTINEZ v. INS, 533 U.S. 348 (2001).
  • Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.

Journalist Brief

In the case of 'Calcano-Martinez v. INS', a group of immigrants were threatened with deportation on account of various criminal charges. They challenged this in court arguing that the new amendments to the immigration law, which restricted their right to contest the rulings of the deportation court, were unfair. The US Supreme Court ruled in their favour, stating that the federal courts should not be barred from hearing these appeals without clear direction from Congress. This upheld a right of review for immigration rulings and served as a message to Congress to be explicit in their law-making decisions.


What were the main issues in Calcano-Martinez v. INS?

Answer: The main issues were the implications of the amendments to the Immigration and Nationality Act, which eliminated the right of immigrants to contest deportation by the INS in a federal court.

What was the decision in the case?

Answer: The court ruled in favor of the immigrants, stating that Congress had not made a clear intent to strip federal courts of hearing such cases.

What was the impact of the case?

Answer: The decision reaffirmed the role of federal courts as a check on the decisions of the INS. It meant any changes to this require explicit statements from Congress.

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