Sale v. Haitian Centers Council, Inc., 509 U.S. 155 (1993)

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OCTOBER TERM, 1992

Syllabus

SALE, ACTING COMMISSIONER, IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE, et al. v. HAITIAN CENTERS COUNCIL, INC., et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit

No. 92-344. Argued March 2, 1993—Decided June 21, 1993

An Executive Order directs the Coast Guard to intercept vessels illegally transporting passengers from Haiti to the United States and to return those passengers to Haiti without first determining whether they qualify as refugees, but "authorize[s] [such forced repatriation] to be undertaken only beyond the territorial sea of the United States." Respondents, organizations representing interdicted Haitians and a number of Haitians, sought a temporary restraining order, contending that the Executive Order violates 243(h)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA or Act) and Article 33 of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The District Court denied relief, concluding that 243(h)(1) does not protect aliens in international waters and that the Convention's provisions are not self-executing. In reversing, the Court of Appeals held, inter alia, that 243(h)(1) does not apply only to aliens within the United States and that Article 33, like the statute, covers all refugees, regardless of location.

Held: Neither 243(h) nor Article 33 limits the President's power to order the Coast Guard to repatriate undocumented aliens intercepted on the high seas. Pp. 170-188. (a) The INA's text and structure demonstrate that 243(h)(1)—which provides that "[t]he Attorney General shall not deport or return any alien . . . to a country if the Attorney General determines that such alien's life or freedom would be threatened in such country . . ."—applies only in the context of the domestic procedures by which the Attorney General determines whether deportable and excludable aliens may remain in the United States. In the light of other INA provisions that expressly confer upon the President and other officials certain responsibilities under the immigration laws, 243(h)(1)'s reference to the Attorney General cannot reasonably be construed to describe either the President or the Coast Guard. Moreover, the reference suggests that the section applies only to the Attorney General's normal responsibilities under the INA, particularly her conduct of deportation and exclusion hearings in which requests for asylum or for withholding of deportation under 243(h) are ordinarily advanced. Since the INA nowhere pro-

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