NEW ORLEANS – The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana—alongside DLA Piper LLP, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School Appellate Advocacy Clinic, and George P. Mann & Associates—filed a petition for a writ of certiorari asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant review in the case of Ded Rranxburgaj, an Albanian immigrant who has taken sanctuary inside the Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, Michigan. ICE classified Mr. Rranxburgaj as a “fugitive” even though he informed the agency that he would be seeking sanctuary in a church, while awaiting the resolution of his application for a stay of removal to remain in the United States to care for his severely disabled and ill wife. Mr. Rranxburgaj’s counsel is asking the Supreme Court to decide whether federal courts have authority to review ICE’s interpretation and application of federal law, including the fugitive disentitlement doctrine, which is at issue in this case.

Mr. Rranxburgaj seeks to remain in the United States to continue to provide medical care and financial support for his wife, who is incapacitated by multiple sclerosis. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to decide whether ICE wrongly deemed Mr. Rranxburgaj a “fugitive” when he publicly sought sanctuary, finding instead that a provision of federal statutory law—8 U.S.C. § 1252(g)—prohibited the court from deciding the question. This statute prohibits judicial review in cases “arising from” a decision or action by the Attorney General to execute a removal order. The certiorari petition argues that ICE’s designation of Mr. Rranxburgaj as a “fugitive” raises a purely legal question that falls outside the scope of the statute and is subject to judicial review.

“Because Mr. Rranxburgaj does not meet the legal standard for a ‘fugitive’ established by federal case law, he brought suit challenging this designation,” the petition reads. “His challenge was not to ICE’s decision to execute his removal, but rather to the legal error it committed in designating him a ‘fugitive.’” Mr. Rranxburgaj argues that “the approach taken by the [Court of Appeals] reads ‘arising from’ in tension with its plain meaning, ignores the long-established presumption in favor of judicial review, and encourages executive overreach. It gives ICE carte blanche to ignore federal common law, remove noncitizens in violation of court-ordered stays, and commit all kinds of other legal violations.” 

Mr. Rranxburgaj and his wife, Flora, sought asylum in the United States in 2001. Six years later, Flora was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a progressive and incurable disease that attacks the central nervous system. Mr. Rranxburgaj was originally granted a humanitarian stay to care for her, but, in 2017, ICE changed course and told Mr. Rranxburgaj he needed to leave the country. Mr. Rranxburgaj in turn applied for a stay of removal in accordance with federal regulations. But, rather than decide his stay application on the merits, ICE deemed Mr. Rranxburgaj a “fugitive” when ICE was advised that he had sought sanctuary in order to continue to care for his severely ill wife. In the words of the Court of Appeals, ICE did so despite the fact that Mr. Rranxburgaj “has made significant contributions to our society since first arriving in the United States nineteen years ago. He has raised his children here, legally worked and paid taxes, and committed no crime. Moreover, he has demonstrated admirable devotion to his wife as she fights a terrible illness.”

Mr. Rranxburgaj’s counsel includes Nora Ahmed of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana; Ilana Eisenstein, Danielle Morrison, and Ben C. Fabens-Lassen of DLA Piper LLP; Eleanor Barrett and Jean Galbraith of the Appellate Advocacy Clinic; and George P. Mann and Maris J. Liss of George P. Mann & Associates.