SCOTUS: Illegal immigrant avoids deportation thanks to a technicality
According to federal law, even an illegal immigrant can avoid deportation if they stay in the country for 10 years. However, if at anytime within those 10 years he or she receives “a notice to appear” at an immigration hearing, the jig is up. Once the notice is received the person must endure the hearing or face deportation. Some endure the hearing and still face deportation. But not Guatemala-born Agusto Niz-Chavez.
Niz-Chavez lucked out because he received several notices that all had different pieces of information. The Court ruled that because the law calls for “a notice” the government broke the law and could not deport him.
Chavez’s ruling came down to 6-3. Liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, as well as conservatives Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas were the 6 in favor. Opposing judges included Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.
Justice Gorsuch, who wrote the assenting opinion, recognized that the Court played with semantics. “”At one level, today’s dispute may seem semantic, focused on a single word, a small one at that,” wrote Gorsuch. “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.”
However, Justice Kavanaugh did not agree about the power of a single word. “I find the Court’s conclusion rather perplexing as a matter of statutory interpretation and common sense,” Kavanaugh wrote.
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