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Sale v. Haitian Centers Council

Supreme Court of the United States
509 U.S. 155, 113 S.Ct. 2549, 125 L.Ed.2d 128 (1993)


Haitian Centers Council (HCC), among others, are a group of Haitians as well as organizations who represent Haitians (collectively, plaintiffs) who were being detained at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The case arises out of an Executive Order issued by President Reagan and continued by Presidents Bush and Clinton. In 1981, the United States and Haiti entered into an agreement authorizing the U.S. Coast Guard to intercept boats coming from Haiti that were carrying undocumented aliens to the United States, and to send them back to Haiti. The agreement also established that the U.S. Government would not return any Haitians whom the U.S. authorities determined to qualify for refugee status. In 1991, a military coup in Haiti forced thousands of Haitians to flee the country and created a huge influx of aliens coming to the United States on dangerous sea voyages. Because the Coast Guard and the holding facilities for screening refugees became saturated, President Bush adopted an order to repatriate all fleeing Haitians without opportunity for them to establish refugee status, as was contemplated by the initial agreement. HCC filed suit against Sale, the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, among others (collectively, defendants), to challenge the Executive Order, contending it violated § 243(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and Article 33 of the United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The district court denied HCC’s injunction because it concluded that § 243 does not apply in international waters. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Stevens, J.)

Dissent (Blackmun, J.)

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