JEAN V. NELSON, 472 U. S. 846 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Jean v. Nelson, 472 U.S. 846 (1985)

Jean v. Nelson

No. 84-5240

Argued March 25, 1985

Decided June 26, 1985

472 U.S. 846


Petitioner named representatives of a class of undocumented and unadmitted aliens from Haiti filed suit in Federal District Court alleging that the change by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) from a policy of general parole for undocumented aliens seeking admission to a policy, based on no statute or regulation, of detention without parole for aliens who could not present a prima facie case for admission was unlawful because it did not comply with the notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). It was further alleged that the restrictive parole policy, as executed by INS officers in the field, violated the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment because it discriminated against petitioners on the basis of race and national origin. The District Court held for petitioners on the APA claim, but concluded that they had failed to prove discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. The court then enjoined future use of the restrictive parole policy, but stayed the injunction to permit the INS to promulgate a new parole policy in compliance with the APA. The INS promptly promulgated a new rule that prohibits the consideration of race or national origin. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals held that the APA claim was moot because the Government was no longer detaining any class members under the invalidated policy, and that the Fifth Amendment did not apply to the consideration of unadmitted aliens for parole. The court then remanded the case to the District Court to permit review of the INS officials' discretion under the new nondiscriminatory rule.

Held: Because the current statutes and regulations provide petitioners with nondiscriminatory parole consideration, there was no need for the Court of Appeals to address the constitutional issue, but it properly remanded the case to the District Court. On remand, the District Court must consider (1) whether INS officials exercised their discretion under the statute to make individualized parole determinations, and (2) whether they exercised this discretion under the statutes and regulations without regard to race or national origin. Such remand protects the class members from the very conduct they fear, and the fact that the protection results from a regulation or statute, rather than from a constitutional

Page 472 U. S. 847

holding, is a necessary consequence of the obligation of all federal courts to avoid constitutional adjudication except where necessary. Pp. 472 U. S. 853-857.

727 F.2d 957, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and WHITE, BLACKMUN, STEVENS, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 472 U. S. 858.

Page 472 U. S. 848

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