WASHINGTON, D.C. (LifeSiteNews) – The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously sided with a “transgender” Guatemalan immigrant in a deportation case, and while the validity of his so-called “gender identity” was not at issue in the case itself, the court’s two most conservative jurists opted to register their conclusion in a separate opinion, while the three most recent Republican appointees signed onto a majority opinion that recognized the biologically male petitioner with female pronouns.
Santos-Zacaria AKA Santos-Sacarias v. Garland concerns Leon “Estrella” Santos-Zacaria, a man who identifies as a woman and is contesting deportation back to his native Guatemala on the grounds that he has been subjected to violence including rape as well as death threats in his homeland due to his LGBT status and would face similar adversity if forced to return.
First deported in 2008, Santos-Zacaria illegally entered the United States again in 2018 but was apprehended. Challenging removal by citing likelihood of persecution, he got the case before a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected his argument that the Board of Immigration Appeals had overstepped its authority by making fact-finding conclusions reserved for immigration judges.
On May 11, the nation’s highest court ruled 9-0 that the Fifth Circuit had gotten wrong the jurisdictional question at issue, meaning that Santos-Zacaria will now have another chance to plead his case. The Court did not decide whether he should ultimately be allowed to stay or forced to leave.
“We hold further that a noncitizen need not request discretionary forms of administrative review, like reconsideration of an unfavorable Board of Immigration Appeals determination, in order to satisfy §1252(d)(1)’s exhaustion requirement,” wrote the Court’s newest liberal jurist, Biden-appointed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, in a majority opinion joined by fellow liberal Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, as well as Republican Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.
Conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote a one-paragraph concurring opinion, with which conservative Justice Clarence Thomas joined, stating, “I agree with the Court that 8 U. S. C. §1252(d)(1) does not require the filing of a motion for reconsideration under the circumstances presented here,” and that “[b]ecause that determination disposes of this case, I would not decide whether §1252(d)(1) is jurisdictional with respect to the administrative remedies to which it does apply.”
While none of the justices raised the issue in their opinions, and the Court is unlikely to shed light on the matter in the future, the split invites speculation as to whether Alito and Thomas went their own way so as not to sign their names to an opinion referring to a man as female, and whether Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett considered that aspect before signing onto Jackson’s opinion.
The majority of the current justices were appointed by Republican presidents, but their jurisprudence has been mixed. Last summer, the Supreme Court delivered conservatives major victories on gun rights, environmental regulation, and most significantly abortion with the overturn of Roe v. Wade, but they have also disappointed conservatives with dismissive rulings on COVID-19 vaccine mandates, religious freedom, and LGBT accommodation, to the point that Alito and Gorsuch have taken the rare step of criticizing Barrett and Kavanaugh for lacking the “fortitude” to resolve such issues.