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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Rules Immigrants Can’t Avoid Deportation Based on Length of Parents’ Stay

Posted May 21, 2012 10:51 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Two immigrants who came to the United States as children have failed to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court that they should be able to use the length of their parents’ stay and legal residency here to avoid deportation for criminal offenses.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote the unanimous opinion (PDF) rejecting the claims of Carlos Gutierrez, accused of smuggling three minors into the country, and Damien Sawyers, convicted of a drug offense.

Under federal immigration law, immigrants who have been lawful permanent residents for at least five years and have lived continuously here for at least seven years may seek leniency in deportation proceedings. Gutierrez had been charged two years after becoming a legal U.S. resident. Sawyers was a few months shy of the seven-year continuous years requirement when he was convicted.

The Board of Immigration Appeals concluded that child immigrants must meet the requirements on their own. Kagan said the BIA’s approach is based on a reasonable interpretation of the relevant statute. Her opinion reverses decisions by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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