This past Thursday, the Supreme Court reached a decision in favor of an illegal immigrant in a 6-3 vote. The ruling determined that the federal government did not meet the requirements of a statute that requires the feds to serve illegal immigrants with “a notice to appear” in a single document.
In a report from Fox News, the “notice to appear” is required in order to start a “stop-time” rule that prevents illegal immigrants from being deported from the country.
This “stop-time” rule was first set up under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996.
“The Act mandates that immigrants who are unlawfully present in the U.S. for 180 days but under 365 days must remain outside the United States for three years unless pardoned,” the law says. “If they remain in the United States for 365 days or more, they must stay outside the United States for ten years unless they obtain a waiver. However, if they return to the U.S. without the pardon, they must wait 10 years until they may apply for a waiver.”
The illegal immigrant’s time “stop,” under this law, once they receive a “notice to appear” order that contains information about an upcoming immigration hearing.
In the case just heard by the Supreme Court, United States v. Palomar-Santiago, the federal government numerous notices with different pieces of information. The Supreme Court made the ruling that the notice has to be in a single document, and not through multiple documents. SCOTUS Blog reported that the dates and times of any immigration theory must also be included in that document. This decision came down to the use of the word “a” in the law’s language, which led to a technicality.
“At one level, today’s dispute may seem semantic, focused on a single word, a small one at that,” Justice Neil Gorsuch stated in the court’s opinion. “But words are how the law constrains power. In this case, the law’s terms ensure that, when the federal government seeks a procedural advantage against an individual, it will at least supply him with a single and reasonably comprehensive statement of the nature of the proceedings against him.”
The Court had questions about Palomar-Santiago’s order of removal due to the validity of the “notice to appear” documents.
“The charge of criminal re-entry requires the prior existence of a removal order entered by a federal immigration agency,” SCOTUS Blog stated after the oral arguments ended early this week. “In Refugio Palomar-Santiago’s case, that prior removal order did exist. However, the Supreme Court’s 2004 decision in Leocal v. Ashcroft, decided after the entry of his removal order, revealed that the administrative agency’s decision to deport him was not justified by law. Nonetheless, federal prosecutors brought a re-entry charge against him based on that same order. The question is whether Palomar-Santiago can defend against the re-entry prosecution based on the invalidity of the original removal order, or whether his defense must fail because he cannot meet additional requirements set forth by statute — namely, that he ‘exhausted’ his options for pursuing an administrative appeal of the removal order, and that the original proceedings deprived him of judicial review.”