Khouzam v. Atty Gen USA

Court Case Details
Court Case Opinion

PRECEDENTIAL

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS

FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT

________

Nos. 07-2926 & 08-1094

_________

SAMEH SAMI S. KHOUZAM,

Petitioner No. 07-2926

v.

ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES;

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, SECRETARY

OF DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY;

JULIE MYERS, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF

HOMELAND SECURITY

_________

SAMEH SAMI S. KHOUZAM,

v.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, Secretary of Department

of Homeland Security;

THOMAS H. HOGAN, Warden,

Appellants No. 08-1094

_________

_________

On Petition for Review of a Decision

of the Department of Homeland Security

A75-795-693

-and-

On Appeal from the United States District Court

for the Middle District of Pennsylvania

(D.C. Civil No. 07-cv-00992)

District Judge: Honorable Thomas I. Vanaskie

__________

Argued June 30, 2008

Before: RENDELL, SMITH, and FISHER, Circuit Judges

(Filed: December 5, 2008 )

Lee Gelernt, Esq. [ARGUED]
Judy Rabinovitz, Esq.
American Civil Liberties Union
Immigrants' Rights Project
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004-2400

2

Amrit Singh, Esq. [ARGUED]
American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10004-0000

Morton H. Sklar, Esq.
World Organization for Human Rights, USA
2029 P Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20036

Witold J. Walczak, Esq.
American Civil Liberties Union
313 Atwood Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-0000
Counsel for Petitioner/Plaintiff-Appellee
Sameh Sami S. Khouzam

Demetrios K. Stratis, Esq.
10-04 River Road
Fairlawn, NJ 07410-0000
Counsel for Amicus Appellee
American Center for Law and Justice;
European Centre for Law and Justice

Baher A. Azmy, Esq.
Seton Hall Law School
Center for Social Justice
833 McCarter Highway
Newark, NJ 07102-0000
Counsel for Amicus Appellee
Scholars of International Human Rights Law

3

Jane M. Ricci, Esq.
Eleanor H. Smith, Esq.
Zuckerman Spaeder
1800 M Street, N.W.
Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036-0000
Counsel for Amicus Appellee
Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture
The Redress Trust

Paul R. Taskier, Esq.
Dickstein Shapiro
1825 Eye Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006-0000
Counsel for Amicus Appellee
Human Rights Watch;
Amnesty International;
Center for Constitutional Rights;
International Commission of Jurists;
International Federation for Human Rights

Thomas H. Dupree, Jr., Esq. [ARGUED]
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
601 D Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530-0000

(continued)

4

Douglas E. Ginsburg, Esq.
United States Department of Justice
Office of Immigration Litigation
P.O. Box 878
Ben Franklin Station
Washington, DC 20044-0000
Counsel for Defendants/Appellants
Secretary of Department of Homeland Security;
Thomas Hogan

__________

OPINION OF THE COURT

__________

RENDELL, Circuit Judge.

Sameh Sami S. Khouzam, a citizen of Egypt and a Coptic

Christian, challenges the legality of his detention and imminent

removal based on diplomatic assurances by Egypt that he would

not be tortured if he was returned. In 1998, Khouzam was

denied admission to the United States and taken into custody

upon arriving without proper documentation. After years of

proceedings, Khouzam was granted relief from removal because

it was more likely than not that he would be tortured if returned

to Egypt. His removal was deferred, rather than withheld,

because there were serious reasons to believe that he committed

5

a murder prior to departing Egypt. Khouzam was released from

custody in 2006. In 2007, without notice or a hearing, the

Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) again detained

Khouzam, and prepared to remove him based on diplomatic

assurances by Egypt that he would not be tortured. Khouzam

filed an emergency habeas petition in the District Court for the

Middle District of Pennsylvania, and a petition for review in this

Court, arguing that the DHS’s actions were unlawful. The

District Court granted Khouzam’s habeas petition after

concluding, in a comprehensive, thoughtful opinion, that

Khouzam was denied due process. The Government appeals

that ruling.

The arguments before us may be summarized as follows:

Khouzam argues that (1) the Government violated certain

statutes and the Due Process Clause by failing to provide him a

hearing to test the reliability of the diplomatic assurances;

(2) diplomatic assurances from Egypt are categorically

unreliable; and (3) the Government failed to comply with

relevant regulations. The Government argues, in the alternative,

that (1) federal courts lack jurisdiction to consider Khouzam’s

claims; (2) Khouzam’s claims are non-justiciable; (3) Khouzam

received all of the process to which he was entitled; and (4) the

Government complied with all relevant regulations.

We will find for Khouzam for the reasons discussed at

length below. We will reverse the District Court’s order

granting the habeas petition because we disagree with the

6

Court’s conclusion that habeas relief was available. However,

we will grant Khouzam’s petition for review because we agree

District Court

with the

that he was denied due process. We will

accordingly remand the matter to the Board of Immigration

Appeals (“BIA”) for further proceedings consistent with this

opinion.

I. Background

A. History of the Proceedings

This matter comes to us after proceedings that spanned

a decade. On February 10, 1998, Khouzam boarded a plane in

Egypt bound for New York. While Khouzam was in transit,

Egyptian authorities notified the State Department that he

allegedly committed a murder shortly before leaving the

country. U.S. officials accordingly cancelled Khouzam’s visa,

detained him upon arrival, and initiated removal proceedings

because, with his visa cancelled, Khouzam lacked the requisite

documentation.

The complex proceedings that followed may be

summarized for present purposes. Khouzam sought to avoid

removal by applying for asylum, withholding of removal, and

later for relief under the statutes and regulations implementing

the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other

Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

(“CAT”). See Sen. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20 (1988), 1465

7

U.N.T.S. 85. In proceedings ultimately concluding in a decision

by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in

2004, Khouzam was denied asylum and withholding of removal

based on a determination that there were “serious reasons” to

believe that Khouzam had committed a homicide before leaving

1

Egypt. Khouzam v. Ashcroft, 361 F.3d 161, 166 (2d Cir. 2004).

However, the Court also determined that Khouzam was eligible

for relief under CAT based on a finding by the Immigration

Judge (“IJ”) that there was “overwhelming” evidence that

Khouzam would be subjected to torture in Egypt, and a

subsequent determination by the BIA that:

In light of the evidence that the Egyptian

authorities routinely torture and abuse suspected

criminals and the medical evidence indicating that

[Khouzam] has scars and injuries which are

consistent with past torture, . . . we agree with the

Immigration Judge that [Khouzam] has

established that it is more likely than not that he

would be tortured if returned to Egypt.

1

Neither asylum nor withholding of removal may be granted

if “there are serious reasons to believe that the alien committed
a serious nonpolitical crime outside the United States before the
alien arrived in the United States.” 8 U.S.C.
§ 1158(b)(2)(A)(iii); 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3)(B)(iii). Only
deferral of removal may be awarded to such an alien if there is
a likelihood of torture. 8 C.F.R. § 1208.17(a).

8

2

Id. at 169, 171. Because there were serious reasons to believe

Khouzam committed a murder, however, his relief under CAT

was limited to deferral of removal instead of the more

3

permanent relief of withholding of removal.

Khouzam subsequently challenged his continuing

confinement through a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed

in the District of New Jersey, the jurisdiction where he was

detained. On February 6, 2006, after Khouzam had been in

custody for eight years, the Court granted the petition after

concluding that “there was no significant likelihood of

[Khouzam’s] removal in the reasonably foreseeable future.” (JA

190.) As a condition of release, Khouzam was required to report

regularly to a Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement

(“ICE”) facility in York, Pennsylvania, the city where Khouzam

2

The Second Circuit vacated a 2002 decision of the BIA

denying CAT relief upon finding that the BIA applied the wrong
legal standard. In vacating the 2002 decision, the Court let stand
a previous BIA decision of 2000 which affirmed that Khouzam
was eligible for relief under CAT. Khouzam v. Ashcroft,
361 F.3d at 169, 171-72.

3

“Deferral” differs from “withholding” of removal under CAT

in that, in order to terminate withholding of removal, the
Government must satisfy extensive requirements for reopening
immigration proceedings. See 8 C.F.R. §§ 1003.2, 1003.23.
These requirements do not apply when the Government seeks to
terminate a deferral of removal. See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.17(d)(1).

9

intended to reside.

When Khouzam reported to the ICE facility on May 29,

2007, he was retaken into custody and informed that he was

subject to imminent deportation. Khouzam’s counsel received

the following explanation in a letter of the same date from

Julie L. Myers, the DHS Assistant Secretary for the ICE:

Consistent with the procedures set forth at

8 C.F.R. §§ 1208.18(c) and 208.18(c), I have

credited as sufficiently reliable the diplomatic

assurances received by the Department of State

from the Government of Egypt that your client,

Mr. Khouzam, would not be tortured if removed

there. The Secretary of Homeland Security has,

therefore, in accordance with 8 C.F.R.

§§ 1208.17(f) and 208.17(f), terminated

Mr. Khouzam’s deferral of removal to Egypt,

effective January 24, 2007. The Department of

Homeland Security will not remove Mr. Khouzam

to Egypt prior to June 1, 2007.

(JA 52.) The Government provided no prior notice to Khouzam

regarding the diplomatic assurances. Nor did the Government

provide Khouzam any opportunity to review the assurances, or

to present evidence or arguments challenging the assurances

before an IJ, the BIA, or any other body.

10

On May 30, 2007, Khouzam filed an emergency petition

for a writ of habeas corpus and a stay of his removal in the

District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Khouzam argued, inter alia, that the Government’s actions

violated the prior order granting CAT relief and deprived him of

his due process rights. Khouzam later added a claim that the

Government failed to comply with the regulatory procedures for

invoking diplomatic assurances. The District Court temporarily

stayed Khouzam’s removal on May 31, 2007. On June 22,

2007, Khouzam filed a motion to compel his release, arguing

that his continued indefinite detention was not justified.

On June 26, 2007, Khouzam also filed a petition for

review in this Court, challenging the termination of his deferral

of removal on grounds similar to those argued in his habeas

petition. We issued an order on December 12, 2007, explaining

that we would delay consideration of Khouzam’s petition for

review until after the District Court ruled on the habeas petition.

We also explained that the cases would be consolidated if either

party appealed the habeas ruling.

On January 10, 2008, the District Court granted

Khouzam’s habeas petition. Khouzam v. Hogan, 529 F. Supp.

2d 543, 571 (M.D. Pa. 2008). As a threshold matter, the Court

determined that it had jurisdiction over the habeas petition

notwithstanding certain statutory provisions that could be

construed to restrict the availability of this relief. The Court

then determined that the DHS violated the Due Process Clause

11

of the Fifth Amendment by failing to afford Khouzam notice

and an opportunity to be heard on the sufficiency of Egypt’s

diplomatic assurances. Id. at 570. The Court vacated the

termination and ordered Khouzam to be released, once again

because there was no significant likelihood that he would be

removed in the reasonably foreseeable future. Id. On

January 14, 2008, both the District Court and this Court denied

motions by the Government to stay Khouzam’s release.

We now have consolidated before us the Government’s

appeal from the District Court’s grant of Khouzam’s habeas

petition, and Khouzam’s petition for review of the DHS’s

decision to terminate his deferral of removal.

B. Relevant Provisions Implementing CAT

At the heart of this case lie certain statutory and

regulatory provisions implementing CAT in the United States,

a treaty which was ratified by the Senate in 1990. S. Exec. Rep.

No. 101-30, at 29-31 (1990). Article 3 of CAT provides,

without exception, that “[n]o State Party shall expel, return

(‘refouler’) or extradite a person to another State where there are

substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of

being subjected to torture.” Sen. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20

4

(1988), 1465 U.N.T.S. 85. On October 21, 1998, President

4

The Senate ratified CAT subject to certain reservations,

(continued...)

12

Clinton signed into law the Foreign Affairs Reform and

Restructuring Act of 1998 (“FARRA”), Pub. L. 105-277, div. G,

§ 2242, 112 Stat. 2681, 2681-822 (codified as note to 8 U.S.C.

§ 1231), which was enacted by Congress to give Article 3 of

CAT “wholesale effect” domestically. See Medellin v. Texas,

128 S. Ct. 1346, 1365 (2008).

FARRA establishes that,

It shall be the policy of the United States not to

expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the

involuntary return of any person to a country in

which there are substantial grounds for believing

the person would be in danger of being subjected

to torture, regardless of whether the person is

physically present in the United States.

4

(...continued)

understandings, and declarations. One of the declarations was
that Articles 1 through 16 of CAT are non-self-executing, and
one of the understandings was that the Article 3 phrase “where
there are substantial grounds for believing that [the alien] would
be in danger of being subjected to torture” would be construed
by the United States to mean “it is more likely than not that [the
alien] will be tortured.” S. Exec. Rep. No. 101-30, at 30-31
(1990).

13

FARRA § 2242(a). Congress accordingly required “the heads

of the appropriate agencies” to prescribe implementing

regulations. Id. § 2242(b). Congress also directed that, “[t]o the

maximum extent consistent with the obligations of the United

States under the Convention” the regulations “shall exclude

from the protection of such regulations aliens described in

section 241(b)(3)(B) of the [INA].” Id. § 2242(c). This group

of aliens includes any alien for whom “there are serious reasons

to believe that [he or she] committed a serious nonpolitical

crime outside the United States before [he or she] arrived in the

United States.” INA § 241(b)(3)(B)(iii); 8 U.S.C.

5

§ 1231(b)(3)(B)(iii).

FARRA further provides that “[n]otwithstanding any

other provision of law, and except as provided” in the

implementing regulations themselves, “no court shall have

5

INA § 241(b)(3)(B) also includes (1) any alien who “ordered,

incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of
an individual because of the individual’s race, religion,
nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political
opinion;” (2) any alien who “having been convicted by a final
judgment of a particularly serious crime is a danger to the
community of the United States,” and (3) any alien for whom
“there are reasonable grounds to believe that [he or she] is a
danger to the security of the United States.” INA
§ 241(b)(3)(B)(i), (ii), (iv); 8 U.S.C. § 1231(b)(3)(B)(i), (ii),
(iv).

14

jurisdiction to review the regulations adopted to implement” the

provisions of section 2242. FARRA § 2242(d). Congress also

directed that “nothing in [§ 2242] shall be construed as

providing any court jurisdiction to consider or review claims

raised under the [CAT or § 2242], or any other determination

made with respect to the application of the policy [stated in

§ 2242(a)], except as part of the review of a final order of

removal pursuant to section 242 of the [INA].” Id.

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) accordingly

promulgated regulations that established procedures for raising

a CAT claim. Regulations Concerning the Convention Against

Torture, 64 Fed. Reg. 8478 (Feb. 19, 1999). Under these

regulations an alien is entitled to protection from removal if the

alien can prove “that it is more likely than not that he or she

would be tortured if removed to the proposed country of

6

removal.” 8 C.F.R. § 1208.16(c)(2)-(3).

Section 1208.18(c) establishes procedures for the use of

diplomatic assurances, and reads in full:

Diplomatic assurances against torture obtained by

the Secretary of State.

6

The regulations implementing FARRA are also codified at

8 C.F.R. pt. 208. For example, 8 C.F.R. § 1208.16 has an
identical counterpart at 8 C.F.R. § 208.16.

15

(1) The Secretary of State may forward to the

Attorney General assurances that the Secretary

has obtained from the government of a specific

country that an alien would not be tortured there

if the alien were removed to that country.

(2) If the Secretary of State forwards assurances

described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section to the

Attorney General for consideration by the

Attorney General or her delegates under this

paragraph, the Attorney General shall determine,

in consultation with the Secretary of State,

whether the assurances are sufficiently reliable to

allow the alien’s removal to that country

consistent with Article 3 of the Convention

Against Torture. The Attorney General’s

authority under this paragraph may be exercised

by the Deputy Attorney General or by the

Commissioner, Immigration and Naturalization

[7]

Service, but may not be further delegated.

7

The Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. No. 107-296,

116 Stat. 2135 (2002), eliminated the Immigration and
Naturalization Service (“INS”) and assigned INS’s enforcement
functions to the DHS’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement
(“ICE”). See Kanivets v. Gonzales, 424 F.3d 330,
333 n.1 (3d Cir. 2005). The DHS Assistant Secretary for the

(continued...)

16

(3) Once assurances are provided under paragraph

(c)(2) of this section, the alien’s claim for

protection under the Convention Against Torture

shall not be considered further by an immigration

judge, the Board of Immigration Appeals, or an

asylum officer.

Id. § 1208.18(c). Section 1208.18 provides no limitations on

when diplomatic assurances may be invoked, either in terms of

particular categories of aliens, or the status of an alien’s CAT

claims in the adjudicatory process. It stands apart as a separate

process that may be followed by the Government with respect to

aliens with either ongoing or completed CAT proceedings.

Deferral of removal under CAT is governed by 8 C.F.R.

§ 1208.17. Section 1208.17(a) establishes that aliens meeting

the burden of proof for CAT relief, but ineligible for

withholding of removal based on section 1208.16(d)(2), shall

instead be granted deferral of removal. 8 C.F.R. § 1208.17.

This includes an alien ineligible for withholding of removal

based on a finding that “there are serious reasons to believe that

[the alien] committed a serious nonpolitical crime outside the

United States before [the alien] arrived in the United States.”

INA § 241(b)(3)(B)(iii).

7

(...continued)

ICE is the functional equivalent of the Commissioner of the
now-defunct INS. See 8 C.F.R. §§ 1.1(d), 1001.1(d).

17

Section 1208.17(d) sets forth procedures for terminating

a deferral of removal: “At any time while deferral of removal

is in effect, the [Government] may file a motion with the

Immigration Court . . . to schedule a hearing [before an IJ] to

consider whether deferral of removal should be terminated,” and

the Government’s motion should be granted as long as it is

“accompanied by evidence that is relevant to the possibility that

the alien would be tortured in the country to which removal has

been deferred and that was not presented at the previous

hearing.” 8 C.F.R. § 1208.17(d)(1). The regulation provides for

notice to the alien, an opportunity for the alien to be heard and

to present evidence at the termination hearing, and a right to

appeal to the BIA. The burden remains on the alien to prove

that it is more likely than not that he or she would be tortured if

returned to the proposed country of removal. Id.

§§ 1208.17(d)(2)-(4).

Of particular importance here, section 1208.17(f)

provides for termination on the basis of diplomatic assurances,

and reads in full:

Termination pursuant to § 1208.18(c) [diplomatic

assurances]. At any time while deferral of

removal is in effect, the Attorney General may

determine whether deferral should be terminated

based on diplomatic assurances forwarded by the

Secretary of State pursuant to the procedures in

§ 1208.18(c).

18

Id. § 1208.17(f). Neither this paragraph, nor any provision in

FARRA or the implementing CAT regulations, sets forth any

procedures to be afforded the alien once the Attorney General

makes a determination that a deferral should be terminated

based on diplomatic assurances.

II. Jurisdiction

A. Habeas Jurisdiction

Khouzam’s habeas petition to the District Court

challenged the DHS’s decision to terminate his deferral of

removal on statutory and constitutional grounds. The

Government argued there, as it does here, that Congress

removed habeas jurisdiction from the Court through, inter alia,

the REAL ID Act of 2005. The District Court concluded that it

had jurisdiction under the general habeas authority of 28 U.S.C.

§ 2241, after determining that a contrary interpretation would

cause Suspension Clause problems. Khouzam v. Hogan, 529 F.

Supp. 2d 543, 561 (M.D. Pa. 2008) (citing Khouzam v. Hogan,

497 F. Supp. 2d 615, 623 (M.D. Pa. 2007)). However, we agree

with the Government that Congress spoke with sufficient clarity

in the REAL ID Act to remove habeas jurisdiction over this

matter. While this would ordinarily present a Suspension Clause

problem, we do not reach the issue because, as discussed below,

this Court has alternative jurisdiction to consider Khouzam’s

arguments through his petition for review.

19

We review de novo the District Court’s interpretation of

the statutes applicable to Khouzam’s habeas petition. Gerbier

v. Holmes, 280 F.3d 297, 302 (3d Cir. 2002). The Supreme

Court established in INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289 (2001), that

there is a “longstanding rule requiring a clear statement of

congressional intent to repeal habeas jurisdiction.” Id. at 298.

In St. Cyr, the Supreme Court refused to interpret certain

provisions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant

Responsibility Act of 1996 (“IIRIRA”) so as to foreclose any

judicial review of an order of removal. Id. at 311. The Court

concluded that the IIRIRA provisions did not eliminate habeas

jurisdiction because, despite expressly precluding “judicial

review” and “jurisdiction to review,” none of them explicitly

mentioned “habeas corpus” or 28 U.S.C. § 2241. Id. at 314.

The “lack of a clear, unambiguous, and express statement of

congressional intent to preclude judicial consideration on

habeas,” combined with the absence of an alternate judicial

forum, was fatal to the Government’s jurisdictional argument.

Id.

The Government argues here that the REAL ID Act of

2005 clearly and expressly removes habeas jurisdiction. See

REAL ID Act of 2005, Pub. L. 109-13, div. B, § 106(a)(1)(B),

119 Stat. 231, 310 (codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(4)). The Act

provides in relevant part:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law

(statutory or nonstatutory), including section 2241

20

of Title 28, or any other habeas corpus provision,

and sections 1361 and 1651 of such title, a

petition for review filed with an appropriate court

of appeals in accordance with this section shall be

the sole and exclusive means for judicial review

of any cause or claim under [CAT] . . . .

8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(4). The Government further contends that,

because Khouzam’s challenge to the DHS’s termination of his

deferral of removal is a “cause or claim under [CAT],” the

District Court had no jurisdiction to consider it. The District

Court, seeking to avoid constitutional questions, determined that

the jurisdiction-stripping provision did not apply because

Khouzam was challenging a termination decision by the DHS,

rather than an order for removal that could be subject to a

petition for review. Khouzam v. Hogan, 497 F. Supp. 2d at 623.

We disagree with the District Court’s conclusion. In the

REAL ID Act, Congress provided precisely what had been

lacking in the statutory provisions at issue in St. Cyr — a clear

statement within the legislation itself explicitly depriving the

judiciary of habeas jurisdiction. IIRIRA made no reference to

“habeas corpus” or section 2241, while 8 U.S.C § 1252(a)(4)

refers specifically to both. Moreover, the House Conference

Report accompanying the REAL ID Act indicates that section

106 was crafted using St. Cyr as a roadmap. See H.R. Rep.

No. 109-72, at 173-75 (2005) (Conf. Rep.). This is helpful, and

consideration of it is, we believe, permissible in light of

21

Boumediene v. Bush, 128 S. Ct. 2229 (2008). There, the

Supreme Court deemed it appropriate for a court of appeals to

consider legislative history indicating that habeas-stripping

provisions of the Military Commissions Act (“MCA”) were

crafted to foreclose an avenue for review the Court had

previously relied on in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557

(2006). Id. at 2243. The Court in Boumediene reasoned that the

MCA must be interpreted to deprive habeas jurisdiction if the

“ongoing dialogue between and among the branches of

Government is to be respected.” Id. at 2243-44. We likewise

conclude that 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(4) comports with St. Cyr, and

precludes the District Court from exercising jurisdiction over

8

Khouzam’s habeas petition.

Khouzam’s habeas petition challenges the Government’s

termination of his deferral of removal based on diplomatic

assurances. The Government prompted Khouzam’s petition by

invoking its diplomatic assurance authority under the CAT

regulations. We find that litigation over the Government’s use

of this CAT authority is appropriately deemed to fall within the

8

As discussed below, we also reach a different conclusion

than the District Court by concluding that the DHS’s decision to
terminate Khouzam’s deferral was a final order of removal, and
thus subject to our jurisdiction through Khouzam’s petition for
review.

22

9

broad ambit of “any cause or claim under [CAT].” We

therefore conclude that the habeas-stripping provision of section

1252(a)(4) applies to Khouzam’s petition.

Because, as discussed below, Khouzam’s petition for

review affords an alternative avenue for review, we need not

consider whether the provision violates the Suspension Clause.

See U.S. Const. Article I, section 9 (“The privilege of the writ

of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases

of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”)

Accordingly, we conclude that the District Court lacked

jurisdiction to entertain Khouzam’s habeas petition, and will

vacate its order.

9

As we discuss in Note 13 infra, we reach a different

conclusion with regard to 8 C.F.R. § 1208(c)(3), which requires
an IJ, the BIA, or an asylum officer to cease considering an
alien’s claim for protection under [CAT]” once the
Government proffers diplomatic assurances. (emphasis added).
By challenging the Government’s use of diplomatic assurances,
an alien is not asserting his or her own claim for protection
under CAT, but is instead rebutting the use of a removal tool by
the Government. While we conclude that Khouzam’s habeas
petition falls within “any cause or claim under [CAT],” and thus
within 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(4), we also conclude that a challenge
to diplomatic assurances falls outside the narrower scope of an
“alien’s claim for protection” under 8 C.F.R. § 1208(c)(3).

23

B. Jurisdiction Over Khouzam’s Petition for Review

The Government argues that the DHS’s decision to

terminate Khouzam’s deferral of removal is not a final order of

removal, and thus this Court has no jurisdiction to consider that

decision through Khouzam’s petition for review. Alternatively,

the Government argues that the petition for review, even if

permissible, should have been filed in the Court of Appeals for

the D.C. Circuit. Khouzam contends that 8 U.S.C. § 1252

should be interpreted to provide jurisdiction over his petition for

review due to the serious constitutional questions that would

otherwise arise. As the Supreme Court noted in St. Cyr, we

must avoid construing a statute in a manner that “would raise

serious constitutional problems,” if an alternative interpretation

that would avoid such problems is “fairly possible.” 533 U.S.

at 300 (citations and internal quotations omitted). Furthermore,

Khouzam contends that forum selection is non-jurisdictional and

this Court should exercise its discretion to retain the case. We

agree with Khouzam. We conclude that 8 U.S.C. § 1252 can,

and accordingly must, be fairly interpreted to provide

jurisdiction over his petition for review. Furthermore, we agree

that forum selection here is a matter of venue, and that it is

appropriate for us to retain the case under the circumstances.

The Supreme Court has firmly established that a statute

denying an alien the ability to test the legality of the alien’s

detention through a habeas petition is subject to constitutional

scrutiny, and, upon failing such scrutiny, may be invalidated as

24

an unconstitutional suspension of the writ. See Boumediene,

128 S. Ct. at 2262, 2274. The Supreme Court further instructs

us that the Suspension Clause is not implicated so long as

Congress provides an “adequate and effective” alternative to

habeas review. Swain v. Pressley, 430 U.S. 372, 381 (1977);

accord Boumediene, 128 S. Ct. at 2262; St. Cyr, 533 U.S. at 314

n.38. Without question, serious constitutional questions would

be raised if Khouzam were afforded no alternative to the habeas

review denied by 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(4).

We have held that “there is no question” that a petition

for review with a court of appeals, under the current statutory

regime, provides an alien an adequate substitute to habeas

review. Kolkevich v. Att’y Gen., 501 F.3d 323, 332 (3d Cir.

2007). Other courts of appeal have reached the same

conclusion. See, e.g., Singh v. Mukasey, 533 F.3d 1103,

1106-08 (9th Cir. 2008); Ruiz-Martinez v. Mukasey, 516 F.3d

102, 114 (2d Cir. 2008); Mohamed v. Gonzales, 477 F.3d 522,

526 (8th Cir. 2007); Alexandre v. U.S. Att’y Gen., 452 F.3d

1204, 1206 (11th Cir. 2006). Therefore, so long as it is “fairly

possible” for us to conclude that we have jurisdiction over

Khouzam’s petition for review, we will do so to avoid the

serious constitutional questions that would be raised if Khouzam

lacked any judicial forum in which to challenge his removal.

We find no tension between this interpretive approach

and the legislative history of the habeas-stripping provision.

The House Conference Report that accompanied the REAL ID

25

Act plainly states that the Act “does not eliminate judicial

review.” H.R. Rep. No. 109-72, at 174. Rather, “the overall

effect of the proposed reforms is to give every alien a fair

opportunity to obtain judicial review while restoring order and

common sense to the judicial review process.” Id. at 175. The

Report indicates that Congress was fully aware of the

constitutional pitfalls of stripping habeas jurisdiction, and

sought to avoid them entirely in crafting the provision codified

in 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(4):

[S]ection 106 would give every alien one day in

the court of appeals, satisfying constitutional

concerns. The Supreme Court has held that in

supplanting the writ of habeas corpus with an

alternative scheme, Congress need only provide a

scheme which is an “adequate and effective”

substitute for habeas corpus. See Swain v.

Pressley, 430 U.S. 372, 381 (1977). Indeed, in

St. Cyr itself, the Supreme Court recognized that

“C ongress c ould, w ithout raising any

constitutional questions, provide an adequate

substitute through the courts of appeals.” St. Cyr,

533 U.S. at 314 n.38 (emphasis added). By

placing all review in the courts of appeals, [the

REAL ID Act] would provide an “adequate and

effective” alternative to habeas corpus.

26

Id. Since section 1252(a)(4) provides that a petition for review

under section 1252 is the exclusive alternative to habeas review,

our task is to determine whether we have jurisdiction to

entertain Khouzam’s petition under that authority.

We have previously held that section 1252 only confers

jurisdiction on us to review “final orders of removal.” Obale v.

Att’y Gen., 453 F.3d 151, 158 & n.6 (3d Cir. 2006) (synthesizing

the relevant subsections of 8 U.S.C. § 1252); see 8 U.S.C.

§§ 1252(a)(1), (b). We must therefore decide whether it is fairly

possible for us to determine that the DHS’s decision to terminate

Kouzam’s deferral of removal is a final order of removal. This

inquiry requires us to consider first whether the decision was an

order of removal, and, if so, whether that order was final.

Congress did not provide a definition for an “order of

removal.” Congress did, however, supply a definition for “order

of deportation.” See 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(47)(A). In other

contexts, this circuit and others have used the terms

“deportation” and “deportable” interchangeably with the terms

“removal” and “removable.” See Kolkevich, 501 F.3d at 326

n.2; Obale, 453 F.3d at 160; Viracha v. Mukasey, 518 F.3d 511,

513-14 (2d Cir. 2008); Lolong v. Gonzales, 484 F.3d 1173, 1177

n.2 (9th Cir. 2007); Sosa-Valenzuela v. Gonzales, 483 F.3d

1140, 1144 n.5 (10th Cir. 2007). By substituting the respective

terms into the statutory definition of an “order of deportation,”

we have previously deemed an “order of removal” to be an

“order

27

. . . concluding that the alien is [removable] or ordering

[removal].” 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(47); Obale, 452 F.3d at 160.

Seeing no reason to reconsider this approach here, we

apply the definition to the DHS’s decision. On February 24,

2004, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

issued a ruling by which Khouzam was granted deferral of

removal. With that deferral in effect, the Government had no

authority to remove Khouzam to Egypt. The DHS subsequently

informed Khouzam on May 29, 2007 that, on the basis of

diplomatic assurances from Egypt, it decided to terminate the

deferral of removal and that Khouzam was accordingly subject

to imminent removal. Moreover, a declaration by the ICE dated

May 30, 2007, indicates that the ICE “arrested and detained

Mr. Khouzam on May 29, 2007, in preparation for enforcing

Mr. Khouzam’s final order of removal.” (JA 283.) Thus, the

decision of the DHS to terminate Khouzam’s deferral of

removal made him eligible for, and apparently subject to,

imminent removal to Egypt. We therefore conclude that the

DHS’s decision was an “order of removal” under section 1252.

The Government asserts that the BIA’s order of March 7,

2002 denying Khouzam’s applications for asylum and

withholding of removal is an order of removal that will remain

in effect regardless of any ruling on deferral. While this

observation may well be correct, it has no bearing on whether

the DHS’s termination of deferral may also qualify as an order

of removal. We find nothing to suggest that an alien may be

28

subject to only one order of removal at a time. Furthermore, we

see no reason why a termination of CAT relief should be treated

any differently for jurisdictional purposes from an initial denial

of CAT relief, which we regularly review as an order of

removal. See, e.g., Pierre v. Att’y Gen., 528 F.3d 180 (3d Cir.

2008) (en banc). Our reasoning is in accord with the Second

Circuit’s recent ruling in Ali v. Mukasey, 529 F.3d 478 (2d Cir.

2008), where the court vacated a termination of deferral of

removal without raising any distinction between the denial of

CAT relief and the termination of deferral as to CAT relief. Id.

at 488.

The Government also contends that Khouzam challenged

his March 7, 2002 order of removal before the Second Circuit

and, under Bonhometre v. Gonzales, 414 F.3d 442 (3d Cir.

2005), aliens are limited “to one bite of the apple with regard to

challenging an order of removal.” Id. at 446. The problem with

this argument is that the DHS handed Khouzam a new apple

when it decided to terminate his deferral of removal. The DHS

decision at issue here is a new order for removal that has never

been the subject of a petition for review.

Having determined that the DHS’s decision was an order

of removal, we next consider whether it is fairly possible to

conclude that the order was “final.” Congress provided no

statutory definition to establish when an order for removal

becomes “final.” Here, the substitution of “removal” for

deportation” into existing statutory definitions is less helpful.

29

Congress provided that an order for “deportation”

shall become final upon the earlier of-

(i) a determination by the [BIA] affirming such

order; or

(ii) the expiration of the period in which the alien

is permitted to seek review of such order by the

[BIA].

8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(47)(B). The BIA never ruled on the DHS

decision, nor was Khouzam afforded any opportunity to raise the

matter before any adjudicative body. Indeed, this is a central

concern raised by Khouzam in his substantive arguments.

While we found the deportation definition to be helpful

above, it does not restrict us. First, even if “removal” were

identical in meaning to “deportation” under the statute, the

definition does not expressly exclude other triggers for finality.

Moreover, it appears that Congress did not intend an order of

deportation to be wholly synonymous with an order of removal,

but rather that orders for deportation are a subset of orders for

removal. For instance, section 309(d)(2) of the IIRIRA provides

that “[f]or purposes of carrying out the [INA] . . . any reference

in law to an order for removal shall be deemed to include a

reference to an order of exclusion and deportation or an order of

deportation.” Pub. L. 104-208, 110 Stat. 3009 (1996) (emphasis

30

added). Thus, the definition for finality of deportation orders

does not control our analysis of the finality of an order of

10

removal.

Lacking a statutory definition, we can nonetheless easily

determine that the DHS’s order of removal was “final” through

a common sense application of the term’s plain meaning. The

Government itself claims that Khouzam was subject to imminent

removal once the DHS decided to terminate the deferral of

removal. Thus, the Government argues that the DHS’s

termination decision was final under the relevant statutory

scheme. Moreover, we again note that the ICE itself stated that

it “arrested and detained Mr. Khouzam . . . in preparation for

enforcing Mr. Khouzam’s final order of removal.” (JA 283.)

Clearly, Khouzam was going to be removed, and that was final.

We therefore conclude that the DHS’s decision to terminate

Khouzam’s deferral of removal was effectively a final order of

removal, and thus subject to our review under section 1252.

10

Neither is our analysis controlled by the regulatory

definition of finality for “[a]n order of removal made by [an]
immigration judge” provided in 8 C.F.R. § 1241.1. This
definition is inapplicable because no IJ passed on the order for
removal at issue in the instant case. Nothing in this regulation
establishes that an immigration judge must be the exclusive
source for an order of removal.

31

The Government argues that, even if the DHS decision

could be raised in a petition for review, we lack jurisdiction

because a “petition for review shall be filed with the court of

appeals for the judicial circuit in which the immigration judge

completed the proceedings.” 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(2). The

Government notes that no IJ conducted any proceedings in our

judicial circuit. In fact, as Khouzam argues, no IJ in any circuit

even participated in the decision to terminate removal.

However, section 1252(b)(2) is a non-jurisdictional venue

provision. Bonhometre, 414 F.3d at 446 (citing Nwaokolo v.

INS, 314 F.3d 303, 306 n.2 (7th Cir. 2002)). In Bonhometre, we

exercised jurisdiction over petitions for review despite the fact

that proceedings occurred within the First Circuit’s jurisdiction.

Id. We explained that, “given that this case has been thoroughly

briefed and argued before us, and given that [the alien] has

waited a long time for the resolution of his claims, we believe it

would be a manifest injustice to now transfer this case to

another court for duplicative proceedings.” Id. For the reasons

stated in Bonhometre, and the possible lack of any alternative

forum, we retain Khouzam’s petition for review.

III. Justiciability

Next, the Government contends that the lawfulness of the

DHS’s termination of Khouzam’s deferral of removal based on

diplomatic assurances is a non-justiciable issue. The

Government contends that we must refrain from deciding the

matter under the political question doctrine and the rule of

32

non-inquiry. For the reasons discussed below, we reject the

Government’s arguments.

A. Political Question Doctrine

The Government urges that we must refrain from

exercising jurisdiction under the political question doctrine,

predominantly because of the Executive’s unique role in foreign

relations. We disagree. According to the Supreme Court, “[t]he

political question doctrine excludes from judicial review those

controversies which revolve around policy choices and value

determinations constitutionally committed for resolution to the

halls of Congress or the confines of the Executive Branch.”

Japan Whaling Ass’n v. Am. Cetacean Soc’y, 478 U.S. 221, 230

(1986). Recognizing the potential for the overzealous

application of this doctrine, the Court has admonished us to

remain cognizant of the fact that the concern is with “‘political

questions,’ not . . . ‘political cases.’” Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S.

186, 217 (1962) (emphasis added); see also id. at 210-11

(“Much confusion results from the capacity of the ‘political

question label to obscure the need for case-by-case inquiry.”);

Harbury v. Hayden, 522 F.3d 413, 418 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (“[T]he

doctrine is notorious for its imprecision, and the Supreme Court

has relied on it only occasionally.”).

33

Accordingly, the fact that the resolution of the merits of

a case would have “significant political overtones does not

automatically invoke the political question doctrine.” INS v.

Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 942-43 (1983); accord Japan Whaling,

478 U.S. at 230. Although the Executive and Legislative

Branches bear primary responsibility for the conduct of foreign

affairs, “it is error to suppose that every case or controversy

which touches foreign relations lies beyond judicial

cognizance.” Baker, 369 U.S. at 211; accord Japan Whaling,

478 U.S. at 230. Thus,“a predicted negative impact on foreign

relations does not, by itself, render a case nonjusticiable under

the political question doctrine.” Gross v. German Found. Indus.

Initiative, 456 F.3d 363, 377 (3d Cir. 2006).

The Supreme Court in Baker identified six independently

sufficient factors for determining whether a case involves a

nonjusticiable political question:

Prominent on the surface of any case held to

involve a political question is found [1] a

textually demonstrable constitutional commitment

of the issue to a coordinate political department;

[2] or a lack of judicially discoverable and

manageable standards for resolving it; [3] or the

impossibility of deciding without an initial policy

determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial

discretion; [4] or the impossibility of a court’s

undertaking independent resolution without

34

expressing lack of the respect due coordinate

branches of government; [5] or an unusual need

for unquestioning adherence to a political

decision already made; [6] or the potentiality of

e m b a r r a s s m e n t f r o m m u l t i f a r i o u s

pronouncements by various departments on one

question.

369 U.S. at 217. A factor must not only be present, but must

also be “inextricable from the case at bar.” Baker, 369 U.S. at

217. Thus, our analysis must turn not on “semantic cataloguing”

but, rather, on a “discriminating inquiry into the precise facts

and posture of the particular case.” Id.

We apply Baker with particular caution when asked to

abstain in cases where individual liberty hangs in the balance.

See, e.g., Kadic v. Karadzic, 70 F.3d 232, 249 (2d Cir. 1995)

(“[J]udges should not reflexively invoke [the political question

doctrine] to avoid difficult and somewhat sensitive decisions in

the context of human rights.”); United States v. Decker, 600

F.2d 733, 738 (9th Cir. 1979) (“We are less inclined to withhold

review [based on the political question doctrine] when

individual liberty, rather than economic interest, is implicated”).

This is because “[w]hatever power the United States

Constitution envisions for the Executive in its exchanges with

other nations . . . , it most assuredly envisions a role for all three

branches when individual liberties are at stake.” Hamdi v.

35

11

Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 536 (2004) (plurality opinion).

The first Baker factor asks whether there is “a textually

demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a

coordinate political department.” Baker, 369 U.S. at 217. The

Government maintains that there is such a commitment here due

to the broad constitutional authority of the Executive Branch

over foreign affairs and, relatedly, over immigration. But the

mere fact that foreign affairs may be affected by a judicial

decision does not implicate abstention. See, e.g., Japan

Whaling, 478 U.S. at 229-30 (exercising jurisdiction over a

claim that the Secretary of Commerce violated a federal statute

in declining to initiate sanctions against Japan for exceeding

treaty-based whaling quotas); Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S. 280, 282,

292-310 (1981) (exercising jurisdiction over the question of

whether the Executive had authority to revoke a passport where

the holder’s activities abroad allegedly threatened national

security and foreign policy); INS v. Aguirre-Aguirre, 526 U.S.

415, 423-32 (1999) (exercising jurisdiction over a challenge to

a determination by the BIA that a crime committed by an alien

was “non-political” in nature under the INA). The Government

does not identify, nor do we find, any basis to conclude that the

11

We note that the Supreme Court reached the merits in every

case cited by the Government except for Chicago & Southern
Air Lines v. Waterman S.S. Corp. Civil Aeronautics Board
, 333
U.S. 103 (1948), a case that predated Baker and did not
implicate individual liberty.

36

Constitution commits to the Executive the authority to determine

whether the removal of a particular alien comports with

immigration statutes and regulations. Accordingly, the first

Baker factor is not implicated.

The second factor asks whether there is “a lack of

judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving”

any of the issues in the case. Baker, at 217. As we explained in

Gross, “[e]ven where significant foreign policy concerns are

implicated, a case does not present a political question under this

factor so long as it involves normal principles of interpretation

of the constitutional provisions at issue, normal principles of

statutory construction, or normal principles of treaty or

executive agreement construction.” 456 F.3d at 388 (citations

and internal quotation marks omitted). We see no reason not to

include normal principles of regulatory construction in this list.

We accordingly look to Khouzam’s substantive claims to

assess whether any of them cannot be resolved through

judicially discoverable and manageable standards. First,

Khouzam maintains that returning him to Egypt could never

comport with the CAT protections of FARRA, regardless of any

diplomatic assurances. Second, he contends that terminating his

deferral of removal based on diplomatic assurances, without

notice and a hearing, violated the Due Process Clause of the

Fifth Amendment. Finally, Khouzam asserts that the

Government failed to follow the regulatory procedures

pertaining to diplomatic assurances. These three claims are

37

fundamentally matters of statutory, constitutional, and regulatory

interpretation respectively, and are accordingly legal, rather than

political, standards. See Gross, 456 F.3d at 389.

The Government argues that there are no judicially

manageable standards for the Judiciary to “competently assess

the nature of the relationship between Egypt and the United

States to determine whether this country can trust Egypt’s

diplomatic commitment.” (Govt’s Br. 29.) Khouzam’s second

and third arguments directly implicate due process and

regulatory standards, and do not place the reliability of Egypt’s

assurances before us. To the extent that the reliability of

assurances may be raised by Khouzam’s FARRA argument, we

do not find the second Baker factor to be implicated. As the

Government concedes, a variety of considerations could inform

whether particular assurances are sufficient to allow the United

States to return an alien without violating FARRA. These

include whether the terms of the assurances would satisfy

FARRA; whether the assurances were given in good faith; the

country’s record of torture; the country’s record of complying

with previous assurances; whether there will be a mechanism to

verify compliance with the assurances; the identity and position

of the official relaying the assurances; and the incentives and

capacity of the country to comply with the assurances. While

some of these considerations may lack judicially discoverable

and manageable standards, that is certainly not the case for all

of them.

38

The third factor requires us to determine whether it would

be impossible for a court to decide the case “without an initial

policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial

discretion.” Baker, 369 U.S. at 217. The Government contends

that it would be impossible to do so here because “[t]he United

States made a policy determination to approach Egypt to obtain

its commitment with respect to Khouzam’s treatment.” (Govt’s

Br. 35.) This observation is beside the point. The

Government’s decision to seek diplomatic assurances is not at

issue, but rather whether the Government complied with

constitutional, statutory, and regulatory constraints in employing

diplomatic assurances to remove Mr. Khouzam. Thus, the third

Baker factor is not implicated.

The fourth Baker factor asks whether it would be

impossible for a court to “undertak[e] independent resolution [of

the matter] without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate

branches of government.” Baker, 369 at 217. The Government

argues: (1) in section 2242(c) of FARRA, Congress directed the

Executive Branch to enact regulations that exclude the aliens

described in section 241(b)(3)(B) of INA — serious criminals,

persecutors, and national security risks — from protection from

removal to the maximum extent possible under CAT;

(2) pursuant to this mandate, the Executive established a process

that is “carefully crafted and narrowly tailored to deal with the

most dangerous aliens,” allowing for the termination of

previously granted CAT relief based on diplomatic assurances;

and (3) therefore, “[j]udicial jettisoning of this process would

39

show a lack of respect to the political branches.” (Govt’s Br.

36.)

This argument is flawed for at least three reasons. First,

the regulations do not expressly limit the use of diplomatic

assurances to situations involving section 241(b)(3)(B) aliens.

See 8 C.F.R. § 1208.18(c). Second, we find nothing in the

regulations that expressly excludes the judiciary from

participating in the termination of CAT relief on the basis of

diplomatic assurances. Finally, although a judicial finding that

the Executive violated a constitutional, statutory, or regulatory

provision “might in some sense be said to entail a ‘lack of

respect’ for [the Executive’s] judgment . . . [,] disrespect, in the

sense the Government uses the term, cannot be sufficient to

create a political question.” United States v. Munoz-Flores, 495

U.S. 385, 390 (1990). Otherwise, every challenge to the

legality of Executive action would be non-justiciable. In Powell

v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486 (1969), the Supreme Court

cautioned:

Our system of government requires that federal

courts on occasion interpret the Constitution in a

manner at variance with the construction given

the document by another branch. The alleged

conflict that such an adjudication may cause

cannot justify the courts’ avoiding their

constitutional responsibility.

40

Id. at 549. We find that the same holds true with respect to

statutes and regulations. Accordingly, we conclude that the

fourth Baker factor does not pose a barrier to our exercise of

jurisdiction.

Under the fifth Baker factor, a political question is

present where there is “an unusual need for unquestioning

adherence to a political decision already made.” Baker,

369 U.S. at 217. The Government maintains that this is the case

here because “the highest level of the Executive Branch decided

to credit confidential diplomatic communications from a

sovereign involving such a dangerous alien.” (Govt’s Br. at 36.)

However, even if the decision to credit Egypt’s assurances could

be classified as a political decision, the Government has not

identified any unusual need for unquestioning adherence to that

decision. As we explained in Gross, “Baker makes clear [that]

the fifth factor contemplates cases of an ‘emergency[] nature’

that require ‘finality in the political determination,’ such as the

cessation of armed conflict.” 456 F.3d at 390 (quoting Baker,

369 U.S. at 213) (second alteration in Gross). We see no

comparable urgent need for finality here.

Finally, the sixth Baker factor asks whether exercising

jurisdiction would present “the potentiality of embarrassment

from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on

one question.” Baker, 369 U.S. at 217. The Government argues

that such embarrassment would result if a court were to block

Khouzam’s removal contrary to a promise made by the

41

Executive to Egypt. The Supreme Court rejected a virtually

identical argument in Japan Whaling. 478 U.S. at 229-30.

There, conservation groups argued that certain statutes required

the Secretary of Commerce to “certify” Japan for harvesting

whales in violation of an international convention, where

certification would have triggered automatic sanctions. Id. at

223, 226. After negotiations with Japan, the Secretary agreed

not to certify Japan in return for a promise to meet certain

harvesting limits in the future. Id. at 227-28. The Court

considered the merits of the case, notwithstanding an argument

that there was a risk of “multifarious pronouncements” under

Baker. Id. at 229-30. The Court concluded that “one of the

Judiciary’s characteristic roles is to interpret statutes, and we

cannot shirk this responsibility merely because our decision may

have significant political overtones.” Id. at 230. If the sixth

Baker factor was not implicated in Japan Whaling, we do not

see how it could be implicated here. This conclusion makes

practical sense since the Executive could otherwise foreclose

judicial review in various matters merely by making promises to

other nations.

Therefore, with none of the six Baker factors present, the

political question doctrine does not preclude us from exercising

jurisdiction.

42

B. The Rule of Non-Inquiry

The Government also argues that this case is non-

justiciable under the so-called “rule of non-inquiry.” When it

applies, this doctrine bars courts from evaluating the fairness

and humaneness of another country’s criminal justice system,

requiring deference to the Executive Branch on such matters.

See Hoxha v. Levi, 465 F.3d 554, 563 (3d Cir. 2006). However,

it has traditionally been applied only in the extradition context.

See, e.g., Mironescu v. Costner, 480 F.3d 664, 668-70 (4th Cir.

2007); Prasoprat v. Benov, 421 F.3d 1009, 1016 (9th Cir. 2005);

Hoxha, 465 F.3d at 563; United States v. Kin-Hong, 110 F.3d

103, 111 (1st Cir. 1997); In re Smyth, 61 F.3d 711, 714 (9th Cir.

1995); In re Howard, 996 F.2d 1320, 1329 & n.6 (1st Cir.

1993); In re Manzi, 888 F.2d 204, 206 (1st Cir. 1989). In fact,

we routinely evaluate the justice systems of other nations in

adjudicating petitions for review of removal orders. See, e.g.,

Pierre, 528 F.3d at 186-90; Auguste v. Ridge, 395 F.3d 123,

129, 152-54 (3d Cir. 2005); Chang v. INS, 119 F.3d 1055,

1060-68 (3d Cir. 1997). The Second Circuit did as much in

2004 when it found that Khouzam was likely to be arrested and

tortured if removed to Egypt. Khouzam v. Ashcroft, 361 F.3d at

171. Furthermore, we have expressly reserved the possibility

that, even in the extradition context, the rule of non-inquiry

would not apply if an alien raises a CAT claim. Hoxha, 465

F.3d at 564-65. The Fourth Circuit has held that it does not.

Mironescu, 480 F.3d at 670-73.

43

Without referring to the doctrine by name, the Supreme

Court arguably extended the rule of non-inquiry beyond the

extradition context in Munaf v. Geren, 128 S. Ct. 2207 (2008).

However, Munaf involved the unusual circumstance of two

American citizens being held by U.S. forces in Iraq, pursuant to

security agreements with the Iraqi government, for allegedly

violating Iraqi law. Id. at 2213-15. The Supreme Court found

that, although habeas jurisdiction did lie, it was inappropriate to

exercise that jurisdiction. Id. at 2213. The Court refused to

consider whether the petitioners would face torture if turned

over to Iraqi authorities, explaining that such an inquiry would

“undermine the Government’s ability to speak with one voice.”

Id. at 2226. However, the Court also noted that the petitioners

had not properly raised a claim for relief under CAT, and

expressed no opinion as to the result had the petitioners done so.

Id. at 2226 & n.6. Given the highly unusual factual scenario

presented, and that the Court expressly distinguished claims

under CAT, we find that Munaf does not control here. We

therefore conclude that the rule of non-inquiry is inapplicable to

the present matter and does not bar the exercise of our

jurisdiction over Khouzam’s petition for review.

IV. Legality of the DHS’s Termination of Khouzam’s

Deferral of Removal

A. Categorical Insufficiency

Khouzam argues that no diplomatic assurance from

44

Egypt could ever be sufficient to allow the Government to return

him there under FARRA. First, he contends that returning an

alien to any country that, like Egypt, has a record of consistently

engaging in torture, would be a per se violation of FARRA.

Second, Khouzam contends that, even if we were to find that an

egregious human rights record is not dispositive, additional

considerations in this case make any diplomatic assurances

inherently insufficient to permit removal to Egypt. In particular,

Khouzam asserts that Egypt failed to comply with prior

assurances, that certain systemic barriers preclude post-return

monitoring, that Khouzam had previously been tortured, and that

he is at particular risk as a Coptic Christian.

We construe Khouzam’s argument as an argument that

the regulations must be interpreted under FARRA to preclude

individualized determinations in his fact pattern. This argument

must fail. Congress left it to responsible agencies to implement

the obligations of the United States under CAT. FARRA

§ 2242(b). Khouzam offers no argument that the regulations

prescribed by the DOJ were improperly promulgated or are

being arbitrarily enforced. We must accept an agency’s efforts

to fill in statutory gaps left by Congress unless we find them

unreasonable. See Nat’l Cable & Telecomm. Assocs. v. Brand

X Internet Servs., 545 U.S. 967, 980 (2005) (citing Chevron

U.S.A. v. National Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S.

837, 843-44 & n.11 (1984)). We do not find it unreasonable for

the DOJ to create a procedure for making an individualized

determination, in every case, as to whether particular diplomatic

45

assurances are sufficient to permit removal under FARRA. If,

in fact, a particular country under consideration has an egregious

record of torture, the regulations would require the Government

to take such factors into account. Thus, we reject Khouzam’s

argument that the diplomatic assurances from Egypt are

categorically insufficient under FARRA and its implementing

regulations.

B. Fifth Amendment Due Process

Khouzam contends that we must interpret FARRA as

requiring notice and a hearing prior to his removal in order to

avoid serious constitutional questions that would otherwise

arise. To the extent that the implementing regulations may

conflict with this interpretation of FARRA, Khouzam argues,

the statute must control. In the alternative, Khouzam contends

that removal without notice and a hearing violates his right to

due process under the Fifth Amendment. The Government

counters that, inter alia, FARRA and its implementing

regulations preclude any such process and, in any event, the

Government accorded Khouzam all process he was due.

FARRA does not contain a provision for removal based

on diplomatic assurances, and does not address what level of

process is due to someone in Khouzam’s position. Indeed, we

find no provision in the relevant portion of the statute that even

refers to the process to be afforded an alien. See FARRA

§ 2242. Rather, Congress left the specific issue of CAT

46

procedures to the Executive Branch by way of the authority to

regulate. FARRA directed the Executive to “prescribe

regulations to implement the obligation of the United States

under Article 3 of [CAT].” FARRA § 2242(b). As is discussed

above, the regulations adopted to implement FARRA set forth

elaborate notice and hearing procedures for termination of

deferral of removal in general cases. 8 C.F.R. § 1208.17(d).

However, the terse portion of the regulation addressing

termination on the basis of diplomatic assurances is silent with

regard to what process, if any, is to be afforded the alien. Id.

§ 1208.17(f). There is nothing in the diplomatic assurance

regulations themselves that we could fairly construe as

providing an alien with any process whatsoever, let alone the

right to a hearing. Id. §1208.18(c).

While the statute and regulations do not require a specific

procedure whereby Khouzam could challenge the diplomatic

assurances, through notice and an opportunity to test their

reliability at a hearing, neither do they specifically preclude such

12

a procedure. The Government urges that affording procedures

12

Section 1208.18(c) describes how the Secretary of State may

secure diplomatic assurances and forward them to the Attorney
General for consideration as to whether the assurances are
sufficiently reliable to allow an alien’s removal. But this
provision does not establish any procedures for the Attorney
General, or the Attorney General’s delegate, to use in making

(continued...)

47

to test diplomatic assurances would conflict with 8 C.F.R.

§ 1208.18(c)(3). That regulation provides: “Once [diplomatic]

assurances are provided . . . the alien’s claim for protection

under [CAT] shall not be considered further by an [IJ], the

[BIA], or an asylum officer.” However, we do not agree with

the Government that this regulation conflicts with affording

Khouzam procedures to test the diplomatic assurances.

By its terms, section 1208.18(c)(3) precludes an IJ, the

BIA, or an asylum officer from “further” considering “the

alien’s claim for protection under [CAT]” once diplomatic

assurances are proffered by the Government. Id. (emphasis

added). We read this language only as requiring that any

proceedings then underway must cease when the Government

offers diplomatic assurances before an alien’s substantive CAT

claim has been resolved. Here, Khouzam’s claim for protection

under CAT was resolved by the Second Circuit before the

Government proffered diplomatic assurances. The regulation

does not refer to proceedings to test diplomatic assurances

because such proceedings would not involve the “alien’s claim

12

(...continued)

this decision. Section 1208.17(f) is entitled, “Termination [of
deferral or removal] pursuant to § 1208.18(c),” and provides that
the Attorney General “may determine whether deferral should
be terminated based on diplomatic assurances.” 8 C.F.R.
1208.17(f). This provision likewise establishes no procedures
for the actual termination itself.

48

for protection.” Such proceedings would instead involve the

Government’s claim that diplomatic assurances are sufficiently

reliable to justify removal, notwithstanding any likelihood of

torture previously proven by the alien. Here, Khouzam seeks to

challenge the use of a removal tool by the Government.

Accordingly, neither the Government’s assertion of diplomatic

assurances, nor Khouzam’s challenge to those assurances, fall

13

within the purview of section 1208.18(c)(3).

Finding no statutory or regulatory provision that either

affords or prohibits procedures to challenge diplomatic

assurances, we next consider whether Khouzam was entitled to

process. The Government, citing Shaughnessy v. United States

13

In considering the habeas-stripping provision of 8 U.S.C.

§ 1252(a)(4) above, we found that Khouzam’s habeas petition
fell within the statutory scope of “any cause or claim under
[CAT].” See Note 9 supra. While we recognize that the term
“claim” is used in both 8 U.S.C. § 1252(a)(4) and 8 C.F.R.
§ 1208.18(c)(3), our interpretations of the two provisions are
compatible. Section 1252(a)(4) applies broadly to “any cause or
claim under CAT,” while section 1208.18(c)(3) applies more
narrowly to an “aliens’s claim for protection under [CAT].”
(emphasis added). We see no conflict in finding that
proceedings to challenge diplomatic assurances fall within the
broad category of “any cause or claim” under CAT, but do not
fall within the narrower scope of further consideration of the
“alien’s claim for protection under [CAT].”

49

ex rel. Mezei, 345 U.S. 206 (1953), and United States ex rel.

Knauff v. Shaughnessy, 338 U.S. 537 (1950), argues that

Khouzam is entitled to no process because he was intercepted

prior to entry. Mezei established the “entry fiction” whereby an

alien intercepted “on the threshold of initial entry,” though

physically present in the United States, stands on a “different

footing” for due process purposes than an alien who has “passed

through our gates.” Mezei, 345 U.S. at 212. Knauff upheld

regulations affording the Attorney General special powers to

exclude aliens only during war or the existence of a specific

national emergency proclaimed in May of 1941. Knauff, 338

U.S. at 544-45.

Neither case is applicable here. One dispositive

difference is that Khouzam, unlike the aliens in Mezei and

Knauff, has already been granted statutory relief from removal.

Moreover, we have repeatedly held that aliens detained

immediately upon arrival without proper documentation are

entitled to due process of law during deportation proceedings

implicating statutory relief from removal. Dia v. Ashcroft, 353

F.3d 228, 238-39, 246-47 (3d Cir. 2003) (en banc);

Abdulrahman v. Ashcroft, 330 F.3d 587, 596 (3d Cir. 2003);

Ezeagwuna v. Ashcroft, 325 F.3d 396, 405 (3d Cir. 2003);

Abdulai v. Ashcroft, 239 F.3d 543, 549 (3d Cir. 2001).

In fact, the basic dictates of due process must be met

whether an alien facing removal overstayed a visa, Borges v.

Gonzales, 402 F.3d 398, 401, 408 (3d Cir. 2005), Fadiga v.

50

Att’y Gen., 488 F.3d 142, 145, 155 & n.19 (3d Cir. 2007) ,

Jarbough v. Att’y Gen., 483 F.3d 184, 186, 192 (3d. Cir. 2007);

entered the country undetected, Mudric v. Att’y Gen., 469 F.3d

94, 96, 100 (3d Cir. 2006); Cham, 445 F.3d at 689, 691; Sewak

v. INS, 900 F.2d 667, 667, 671-72 (3d Cir. 1990); or became a

legal resident but then committed an enumerated crime,

Romanishyn v. Att’y Gen., 455 F.3d 175, 178, 185 (3d Cir.

2006); Singh v. Gonzales, 432 F.3d 533, 536, 541 (3d Cir.

2006); Chong. v. Dist. Dir., INS, 264 F.3d 378, 381, 386 (3d Cir.

2001). Further, we have recognized this right to due process not

only where, as here, mandatory statutory relief from removal

was at issue, see, e.g., Singh, 432 F.3d at 536 (withholding of

removal under INA § 241(b)(3) and protection under CAT);

Chong, 264 F.3d at 381 (withholding of removal under INA

§ 241(b)(3)), but also where the alien was seeking discretionary

statutory relief, Abdulrahman, 330 F.3d at 591, 596 (asylum);

Abdulai, 239 F.3d at 545, 549 (same).

On this basis, it is a simple matter for us to conclude that

Khouzam was entitled to due process before he could be

removed on the basis of the termination of his deferral of

removal. Next, we determine whether the Government met this

constitutional obligation.

In Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976), the

Supreme Court explained that “[t]he fundamental requirement

of due process is the opportunity to be heard at a meaningful

time and in a meaningful manner.” Id. at 333. We have found

51

that due process guarantees three basic things in the removal

context. First, an alien facing removal “is entitled to factfinding

based on a record produced before the decisionmaker and

disclosed to him or her.” Abdulai, 239 F.3d at 549 (internal

quotation marks omitted). This includes a “reasonable

opportunity to present evidence on [his or her] behalf.”

Abdulrahman, 330 F.3d at 596. Second, the alien “must be

allowed to make arguments on his or her own behalf.” Abdulai,

239 F.3d at 549. Third, the alien “has the right to an

individualized determination of his or her interests.” Id.

(brackets and internal quotation marks omitted). These elements

are predicated upon the existence of a “neutral and impartial”

decisionmaker. See Abdulrahman, 330 F.3d at 596 (internal

quotation marks omitted).

It is obvious that Khouzam was not afforded notice and

a full and fair hearing prior to his imminent removal on the basis

of diplomatic assurances. In fact, Khouzam was afforded no

notice and no hearing whatsoever. First, the Government failed

to make any factfinding based on a record that was disclosed to

Khouzam. The Government did not permit Khouzam to see the

written diplomatic assurances that had been obtained from

Egypt, and provided no information pertaining to the

Government’s reasons for crediting those assurances. The

Government merely provided Khouzam with a cursory three-line

letter dated three months after the termination decision had been

made. Khouzam had no opportunity to develop a record with

his own evidence. In fact, beyond the Government’s bare

52

assertions, we find no record supporting the reliability of the

diplomatic assurances that purportedly justified the termination

of his deferral of removal.

Second, Khouzam had no opportunity to make arguments

on his own behalf. The Government argues that Khouzam, after

receiving notice of the termination, could have sent the DHS a

letter explaining why he thought the decision was wrong. We

refuse to regard the general ability of an alien to correspond with

an agency as sufficient to satisfy due process, particularly after

the agency has decided the pertinent issue. In addition to

whatever other flaws may exist in this purported opportunity to

argue, we note that Khouzam would not have had the benefit of

a neutral and impartial decisionmaker.

Finally, we also find that Khouzam was denied his right

to an individualized determination. Even if we assume, in the

absence of a meaningful record, that the Government considered

all aspects of Khouzam’s case prior to terminating his deferral,

we again see no indication that Khouzam had the benefit of a

neutral and impartial decisionmaker. Khouzam argues that the

termination decision was tainted by the bias of an organization

that had been attempting unsuccessfully to remove him for

nearly a decade. While “the combination of investigative and

adjudicative functions does not, without more, constitute a due

process violation,” we are not precluded in a particular case

from finding “that the risk of unfairness is intolerably high.

Withrow v. Larkin, 421 U.S. 35, 58 (1975). On the basis of

53

these considerations, we conclude that the Government

terminated Khouzam’s deferral of removal without

constitutionally sufficient process.

After establishing a due process violation, an alien facing

removal must normally also demonstrate “substantial prejudice.”

E.g. Singh, 432 F.3d at 533 (no substantial prejudice where alien

was denied ability to call additional witnesses and claimed not

to have understood questions at hearing); Romanishyn, 455 F.3d

at 185 (no substantial prejudice where alien was denied ability

to call additional witnesses at hearing). Yet this case presents a

special problem. The Government did not conduct a hearing or

provide any meaningful record justification for the termination

decision. Khouzam accordingly has no record upon which to

base an argument, and we have no record upon which we may

assess prejudice. Such a complete lack of process is inherently

prejudicial. Cf. Podio v. INS, 153 F.3d 506, 509-11 (7th Cir.

1998) (reversing a BIA ruling on due process grounds where

alien “was not allowed to complete his testimony or to present

corroborating witnesses” (citing Gentry v. Duckworth, 65 F.3d

555, 559 (7th Cir. 1995) (“[P]rejudice to the right of access to

the courts occurs whenever . . . court doors [are] actually shut on

a complaint, regardless of whether the suit would ultimately

have succeeded.)). In view of the complete absence of any

process by which Khouzam could have challenged the

Government’s termination decision, we find it obvious that

Khouzam was substantially prejudiced.

54

We do not attribute the lack of due process to either

FARRA or its implementing regulations, for neither expressly

directed the Executive to act in a manner that offends the Fifth

Amendment. A statute is not facially unconstitutional unless

“no set of circumstances exists under which the Act would be

valid.” United States v. Salerno, 481 U.S. 739, 745 (1987). It is

also possible for a particular provision to more narrowly offend

the Constitution on an “as applied” basis, and thus “‘be declared

invalid to the extent that it reaches too far, but otherwise [be]

left intact.’” Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of N. New England,

546 U.S. 320, 329 (2006) (quoting Brockett v. Spokane Arcades,

Inc., 472 U.S. 491, 504 (1985)). However, neither circumstance

exists here. The process of arriving at diplomatic assurances as

outlined in the regulations is not problematic. See 8 C.F.R.

§ 1208.18(c). It is the ability to test those assurances prior to

removal, an issue not covered in the regulations, that gives us

pause from the standpoint of due process. Both FARRA and its

implementing regulations are silent as to the process to be

afforded to an alien subject to removal on the basis of

diplomatic assurances. Therefore, neither can be said to offend

the Constitution facially, nor can any particular provision be

identified that “reaches too far” under Khouzam’s

14

circumstances. Instead, the Executive, without relying on any

14

FARRA § 2242(d) provides that “[n]otwithstanding any

other provision of law, and except as provided [in the
implementing regulations themselves] no court shall have

(continued...)

55

statutory or regulatory provision, reached too far by failing to

provide Khouzam constitutionally adequate process.

Because the Government violated the Due Process Clause

by terminating Khouzam’s deferral of removal without affording

him an opportunity to test the reliability of Egypt’s diplomatic

assurances, the termination order was invalid. Since Khouzam

was taken into custody on the basis of this invalid order, he must

be restored to the pre-existing terms of release granted by the

District Court of the District of New Jersey on February 6, 2006.

We will remand the matter to the BIA in order to ensure

that Khouzam is afforded due process before he may be

removed on the basis of diplomatic assurances. While it is not

our role to define the procedures to be used, we follow the

example of the Supreme Court and outline the basic

requirements of due process in this context. Cf. Goldberg v.

Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 265-72 (1970) (providing guidelines to be

followed to ensure that a state affords statutory beneficiaries

adequate process in the welfare termination context). Prior to

removal on the basis of diplomatic assurances, Khouzam must

14

(...continued)

jurisdiction to review the regulations adopted to implement” the
CAT provisions of FARRA. Since we find no reason to
question the validity of the regulations, section 2242 neither
applies nor is itself drawn into constitutional scrutiny. See
Auguste
, 395 F.3d at 138 n.13.

56

be afforded notice and an opportunity to test the reliability of

those assurances in a hearing that comports with Abdulai and its

progeny. The alien must have an opportunity to present, before

a neutral and impartial decisionmaker, evidence and arguments

challenging the reliability of diplomatic assurances proffered by

the Government, and the Government’s compliance with the

15

relevant regulations. The alien must also be afforded an

individualized determination of the matter based on a record

16

disclosed to the alien. We have recognized the adequacy of

process generally afforded aliens facing removal in other

contexts, and have no doubt that the Government can readily

adapt such processes to removal based on diplomatic assurances.

15

Since Khouzam will have an opportunity to challenge the

Government’s compliance with the diplomatic assurance
regulations in the hearing, we need not consider the compliance
arguments he raises in his petition for review.

16

To the extent that the Government is concerned that public

disclosure of certain information may jeopardize national
security
, we note that existing regulations provide a procedure
through which the Government can move for the issuance of an
appropriate protective order. See 8 C.F.R. § 1003.46.

57

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, we hold that the District Court

had no jurisdiction over Khouzam’s petition for a writ of habeas

corpus, and the order granting that petition will accordingly be

VACATED. We will REMAND the matter to the District Court

for proceedings consistent with this Opinion. However, we also

hold that we have jurisdiction over Khouzam’s petition for

review, and that Khouzam was denied due process. We will

accordingly GRANT Khouzam’s petition for review, VACATE

the termination of Khouzam’s deferral of removal and

REMAND the matter to the BIA for additional proceedings

consistent with this Opinion.

__________________

58