Texas A&M Law Review


Robert L. Koehl

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Immigrants who have been ordered removed may challenge their final removal order by filing a motion for the court to reopen their case. Motions to reopen removal cases are common within the immigration system, but offer little chance for an alien to actually receive relief. These motions are typically subject to strict time and numerical limitations. And the legal bases for reopening an immigrant’s case render the alien’s chances unlikely.

Current statute and case law provide seven grounds for an immigrant to reopen a case. These grounds stem from United States Code, the Code of Federal Regulations, and the Board of Immigration Appeals’ precedential case law. Some of these grounds require such a perfect storm of unlikely circumstances that reopening becomes de facto impossible for an alien to attain. Some grounds are confusing, with requirements that are difficult for aliens, their attorneys, or even judges to understand. The remaining grounds have bright-line rules but are couched in ambiguous language. This leads attorneys to pursue reopening in cases that do not merit reopening, but seem to merit reopening because of the ambiguity.

This Comment outlines the current legal bases for an alien seeking to reopen a removal case. It will explore the problems and shortcomings inherent to these bases. And it will recommend reforms to the current structure which will render the immigration post-conclusion structure fairer to the alien, clearer for the private attorneys, and more efficient for the government.

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