Immigration Court Misinterprets Mailing Address Requirements

By Peter Clarke, JD on June 08, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"Alien reporting requirements" -- a terrifying phrase for immigrants in the U.S. The phrase becomes particularly ominous given the fact that it was completely misinterpreted by an immigration court in Alan Soares Renaut v. Loretta E. Lynch.

How is that possible, you ask? Aren't the reporting requirements simple enough?

Here's the requirement at issue: as an alien in the U.S., you're required to give the government a valid mailing address. If your address changes, you must inform the government of that change.

Renaut's Immigration Woes

Alan Renaut, an immigrant from Brazil, came to the U.S. illegally in 2003. He was detained and served a Notice to Appear before an immigration court for a removal hearing. Renaut didn't respond to the hearing notice, so the judge ordered his removal.

Years later, after marrying an American woman, Renaut petitioned the court to reopen his removal proceedings. The immigration court denied the motion because Renaut had failed to notify the court that he had changed his address.

How the Court Screwed That Up

It's true that Renault had moved without notifying the government. But his address where he collected mail was still the same. His friend at the mailing address testified that he was still receiving mail for Renault.

The appellate court found that the immigration court had confused "mailing address" with "residential address." This insanely simple concept had been overlooked by the lower court.

Evading an Immigration Court

Evading an immigration court is not permissible. However, the appellate decision clarifies that evasion, by its nature, "entails some wrongdoing -- i.e., some effort to actually void the notice."

It's entirely possible that Alan Renaut attempted to evade the immigration court by moving addresses. That's a factual issue that has yet to be resolved in this case. For that issue, the lower court must remember: Relocating without providing and updated residential address does not necessarily amount to evading a hearing.

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