After spending nearly three decades in the United States, a citizen of India is facing deportation after he "falsely represented" himself regarding his citizenship status on a Georgia driver's license application, according to court records.

The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments in the case Patel v. Garland, examining whether federal courts have jurisdiction over appeals in immigration proceedings in a process known as "adjustment of status," which allows immigrants already in the U.S. to become lawful green card holders without first leaving the country. A decision in the case could ultimately set the standard for judicial discretion in cases in which immigrants are requesting citizenship status.

In 2012, Pankajkumar Patel was placed in a deportation proceeding before an immigration judge and was charged with being present in the U.S. without admission or parole. Patel renewed his application for adjustment as a defense to deportation. However, the Department of Homeland Security denied the request, arguing the plaintiff was ineligible because he erroneously marked "yes" on a document asking if he was a U.S. citizen, despite his claim he checked the citizen box by mistake.

The case stems from an 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 2019 that formed a circuit split, maintaining that federal courts' jurisdiction to review the Board of Immigration Appeals is highly limited.


"Unless this court reverses, no one other than [DHS] is going to decide it. The agency will have been the last word on an issue of inadmissibility," said attorney Mark Fleming, arguing on behalf of Patel.

“Do you know how many people applied for adjustment of status that are found eligible but for whom the agency exercises discretion not to grant adjustment of status?” Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked.

Court-appointed counsel Taylor Meehan, who serves as a court-appointed amicus on the 11th Circuit's decision, said 10%-15% of applications were denied out of the 213,000 adjustment of status applications granted this year. The data prompted Sotomayor to ask, "So we shouldn’t care too much because it doesn’t affect a lot of people?”

Sotomayor suggested there are ways a decision to eliminate judicial review can disadvantage an applicant, such as work authorization visas and pathway to citizenship.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett aimed her questions on the complications around employing a rule in which courts would have discretion.

“Can you explain how the court is supposed to decide whether the removal would result in extremely unusual hardship to spouse or child or parent?” Barrett asked, as Patel is married with three children.


Arguing on behalf of the Justice Department, Assistant to the Solicitor General Austin L. Raynor provided a hypothetical of a medical practitioner operating legally in the U.S. on a work visa who then applies and is denied adjustment of status.

"The only way for him to get review of that is not under the 11th Circuit's vision of the statute, but under ours," Raynor said, contending with the plaintiff's counsel. Because the doctor is not subject to removal proceedings, the solicitor general argued that there is no other administrative remedy under the law.