In an 8-1 vote, the high court ruled in favor of Noel Reyes Mata, a Mexican citizen who has lived in the United States illegally for 15 years and, after being found guilty of assault, received a deportation order from an immigration judge.
Then, according to the ruling, he expressed his desire to appeal the decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest administrative entity for enforcement of immigration laws.
However, his attorney did not file the proper paperwork within the required 90 days and he decided to find another lawyer and again asked the court to let him appeal the deportation order.
The BIA refused to provide him with any relief and, later, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals claimed that it did not have the authority to extend the deportation deadline.
"Whether the BIA rejects the alien's motion to reopen because it comes too late or because it falls short in some other respect, the courts have jurisdiction to review that decision," wrote Justice Elena Kagan in the majority decision.
The high court ruled that the Fifth Circuit wrongly claimed that it lacked jurisdiction to consider an immigrant's appeal of the BIA's denial of an untimely motion to reopen his removal proceedings, thus changing the rules of the game regarding immigrants and deportation proceedings.