April 29, 2021


Neil Gorsuch's Persnickety Libertarianism Gave Immigrants a Win at the Supreme Court (MARK JOSEPH STERN, APRIL 29, 2021, Slate)

Niz-Chavez is a sequel to the Supreme Court's decision in 2018's Pereira v. Sessions. Both cases involve a federal law governing the deportation of immigrants who live in the United States without authorization. The law lets executive branch officials cancel the removal of these immigrants if, among other things, they've resided in the country for 10 years. But there's a catch: If the government sends them "a notice to appear" at a removal proceeding, it stops the clock, for legal purposes, on their time living in the country. So, for instance, if an immigrant gets a removal notice after living in the U.S. for 9 years and 11 months, they can't cancel their deportation even after they cross the 10-year threshold.

In Pereira, the Supreme Court addressed a tactic that immigration officials used to game this rule. These officials would send immigrants a notice of removal that omitted key information, like the time or place of the removal hearing, and claim that this incomplete notice stopped the clock. By an 8-1 vote, the court rejected this ploy, holding that officials must send an immigrant all the information required by statute to stop the clock on an immigrant's presence in the country for legal purposes.

Immigration officials took a slightly different approach when attempting to deport Agusto Niz-Chavez in 2013, when he had lived in the U.S. for eight years. (Niz-Chavez fled his home country of Guatemala after villagers tried to seize his land and threatened to kill his family; if sent back, he fears he will be killed.) First, officials sent an incomplete notice of the charges against him; then, two months later, they provided the date and location of his hearing. Because these two notices, together, provided Niz-Chavez all the required information, the government argued, it could stop the clock and deny him an opportunity to contest his deportation.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected this scheme by a 6-3 vote. Gorsuch's majority opinion zeroed in on the text of a statute--specifically, the words "a notice to appear." To stop the clock, Gorsuch wrote, the government "must serve 'a' notice containing all the information Congress has specified."

Posted by at April 29, 2021 3:10 PM