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Federal law authorizes the reinstatement of a prior removal order when a noncitizen “reenter[s] the United States without authorization after having already been removed.” It further provides an “expedited process” for doing so, denying to such noncitizens the right to contest before an immigration judge their removability or inadmissibility. The question whether a noncitizen is removable is thus definitively settled immediately upon reinstatement. But the question to where the noncitizen will be removed is less certain. This is because noncitizens subject to reinstated orders of removal retain the right to pursue “withholding-only” relief, which precludes removal to the noncitizen’s home country when extreme dangers await them there.

This lag—between when removability, on one hand, and the country of removal, on the other, are determined—has exposed an ambiguity in the statute providing for judicial review of a “final order of removal,” 8 U.S.C. § 1252. Specifically, § 1252(b)(1) requires that a noncitizen file a petition for review within thirty days of the final order of removal. But when does a reinstated order of removal become final? Specifically, does finality attach when the prior removal order is reinstated (such that removability is determined) or when the administrative process for adjudicating claims for withholding-only relief has concluded (such that the country of removal is determined)? On this question, the courts of appeals are divided.

This Comment contends that the soundest construction of § 1252 deems reinstated orders of removal final when withholding-relief proceedings conclude. Such a construction is consistent with Supreme Court precedent, is more faithful to the statutory text, and better comports with the framework established by § 1252.