Emory Law Journal


The Convention Against Torture prohibits the exclusion or removal of any foreign national who is likely to be tortured upon returning to his homeland, without exception. In the United States, this absolute rule is the law of the land. Such universal applicability exists nowhere else in American immigration law, and for aliens convicted of serious crimes, its significance is difficult to overstate. But those seeking relief under the Convention are unlikely to receive it. At the center of this troubling state of affairs is the plenary power doctrine, the extra-constitutional foundation upon which American immigration law rests. For the political branches, the doctrine is a wellspring of extensive and unparalleled authority; for the courts, it is a short leash of subdued and toothless deference. After establishing that the extraordinary degree of deference usually required by the plenary power doctrine is unwarranted when protection is sought under the Convention Against Torture, this Comment proposes an alternative standard of review for cases where such relief has been denied as a result of adverse credibility determinations.