CHICAGO – The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today in Pereira v. Sessions rejects Department of Justice efforts to use procedural shortcuts to eliminate protections for people who have lived for decades in the United States.
“Cancellation of removal” is a form of relief available to Mr. Pereira and to hundreds of other immigrants who face deportation after living much of their lives in the United States. It allows immigration judges to decline to order deportation of a noncitizen who has lived in the country for at least 10 years, has no criminal record, has “good moral character,” and shows “exception and extremely unusual hardship” to a U.S. citizen family member.
Pereira considered one technical aspect regarding how the 10 years are calculated. The Department of Justice argued that it was not required to adhere to the statute when it issues charging documents to start removal proceedings, cutting off the individuals’ ability to seek cancellation. Several appeals courts deferred to the agency, but the Supreme Court rejected that approach 8-1.
“This is one more example of the immigration agencies attempting to make a draconian statute even more harsh through misinterpretations of the law,” said Chuck Roth, director of litigation for the National Immigrant Justice Center. “Today’s decision undoes that error, but the immigration statute still fails to make room for DREAMers and other long-term members of our communities who face deportation and permanent separation from their families. The U.S. desperately needs to enact sensible and forgiving immigration reform.”
NIJC submitted an amicus brief in the case explaining that immediate scheduling of hearings is not technologically impossible , and explaining that the immigration agency used to employ such a system. The Supreme Court cited this part of NIJC’s amicus brief in its decision.
Justice Kennedy concurred separately to express his concern with the “reflexive deference” which some federal courts granted to the federal agencies. He suggested that judicial deference to agencies is something that should be reconsidered in an appropriate case, a point also urged by NIJC in its brief.
NIJC was represented by Lindsay Harrison, Zachary Schauf, and Jonathan Langlinais, of Jenner & Block.