Publication Date


Document Type



In a 5-4 decision in Jama v. ICE, the United States Supreme Court rejected prior interpretations of alien removal statutes and held that the Secretary of Homeland Security (the "Secretary") may remove aliens without prior consent from the receiving country. The decision has important ramifications for both statutory interpretation and immigration law. The majority, written by Justice Scalia, concluded that in the new version of the removal statute, 8 U.S.C. § 1231, the rule of statutory interpretation, known as the last antecedent rule, precluded the court from reading an acceptance requirement into subsection (b)(2)(E)(iv). In contrast, the dissent concluded that use of the last antecedent rule was inappropriate in light of prior statutory interpretations and agency decisions, and that Congress intended a requirement of acceptance throughout the entire statute. Not only did the Justices disagree on how to interpret the statute, but the majority's interpretation of section 1231(b)(2)(E) eliminated an important barrier in the alien removal process, one which has the potential to complicate U.S. foreign relations.