Holder v. Sawyers

Consolidated with:

Docket No. Op. Below Argument Opinion Vote Author Term
10-1543 9th Cir. Jan 18, 2012
May 21, 2012 9-0 Kagan OT 2011

Holding: The position of the Board of Immigration Appeals that an alien seeking cancellation of removal must individually satisfy the requirements of 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(a) – lawful permanent resident status for at least five years and at least seven years of continuous residence in the United States after a lawful admission – rather than relying on a parent’s years of continuous residence or lawful permanent resident status – is based on a permissible construction of the statute.

Plain English Summary: A statute provides that a foreign national may ask the Attorney General to decide, in his discretion, to cancel removal (deportation) if the foreign national meets certain criteria. Two of the criteria implicate length of U.S. residence and length of immigration status. The Board of Immigration Appeals, which is a part of the Department of Justice, interpreted the statutory criteria to forbid the transfer of a parent’s U.S. residence and immigration status to a child if the child cannot meet the criteria on his or her own. The Supreme Court held that the statutory criteria do not make clear whether such imputation is permissible. Because the statute is ambiguous, the Court explained that it would defer to the Board of Immigration Appeals’ reading of the statute as long as that reading is reasonable. The Supreme Court held the reading to be reasonable. This means that the interpretation of the Board of Immigration Appeals survives. A parent will not be able to transfer residency and/or status to a child to determine the child’s eligibility for relief from removal.

Judgment: Reversed and remanded, 9-0, in an opinion by Justice Kagan on May 21, 2012.

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