Review of Justice-Designate Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Record on Immigration

On April 7, 2022, Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate on a 53 to 47 vote, which will make her the first Black woman to serve as a Justice on the Supreme Court. Judge Brown Jackson’s well-rounded legal experience makes her unquestionably qualified for her seat. With nearly a decade as a federal judge, Judge Brown Jackson’s record may provide some indication on how she would handle immigration cases as a Supreme Court Justice.

Several times as a federal judge, Brown Jackson has issued decisions that interpreted the law favorably for immigrants. Most notably, in Make the Road New York v. McAleenan, Judge Brown Jackson narrowly blocked the Trump Administration’s effort to expand fast-track deportations, holding that the actions violated procedural requirements under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Likewise, in Kiakombua v. Wolf, Judge Brown Jackson found that lesson plans given to asylum officers on how to conduct screening interviews were “manifestly inconsistent” with asylum law. While Judge Brown Jackson has had several favorable decisions on asylum law, in one occasion, in Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center v. Wolf, she ruled in favor of government’s updated policies to limit the preparation time for detained migrants seeking credible fear to one day and mandating detention.

As a “liberal-leaning judge,” her confirmation does not alter the composition of the court, as she replaces retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, and six of the nine justices remain “conservative-leaning.” Nevertheless, many recent Supreme Court decisions involving immigration matters have seen crossover from the Justices’ traditional voting blocks.

It is worth noting that in the confirmation hearing, Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA) pointed out Justice Brown Jackson’s conscious choice of language in her rulings. Rather than using the usual terms “illegal” and “aliens” commonly used in statutes and decisions, she has chosen to use the terms “undocumented” and “noncitizens.”


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