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Interpreting the Immigration and Nationality Act in Federal Circuit Courts: How the Ninth Circuit Became a Vessel Traveling "At Some Distance From The Main Fleet"


Congress created the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide uniformity and equality to our nation’s immigration system. In doing so, Congress afforded the federal circuit courts with vast authority to review and interpret the Immigration and Nationality Act. Unfortunately, the expansive power vested in the federal circuit courts has resulted in an immigration system where relief and protection are inconsistent and unequal.

The purpose of this Article is to highlight the inequities that riddle our immigration system, and to demonstrate that the current appeals process for immigration cases is no longer feasible, nor fair. Through a hypothetical case study, this Article demonstrates that an individual seeking protection in the United States is more likely to obtain relief or protection under the Immigration and Nationality Act if their application is considered under Ninth Circuit precedent, and less likely to succeed if their application is considered under Second Circuit precedent. This Article concludes by proposing a new appellate review process for our immigration system, where a single federal circuit court maintains the authority to consider any decision appealed from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, instead of the federal circuit court sitting in the same jurisdiction as the immigration court where the applicant’s case was initially heard. This proposal, which was previously introduced by the United States Senate in 2006, is now more feasible—and urgently needed—than ever before.