Immigrants Can't Use Parents to Avoid Deportation: US Supreme Court

By Edward Tan, JD on May 23, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that immigrants can't avoid deportation for criminal activities based on how long their parents have been in the country.

Under federal law, immigrants who've been in America continuously for seven years are given leniency in deportation hearings. They must also be legally registered for at least five years. The Court's latest decision makes it so that immigrants can't tack on their parents' residency years to reach the seven year minimum, Reuters reports.

So what motivated the Court to reach this ruling?

Apparently, the justices weren't swayed by arguments for "family unity."

In its opinion (written by Justice Elena Kagan) the Court agreed with the government's position that aliens must satisfy the statutory requirements personally. That is, the justices agreed with the Board of Immigration Appeals' strict interpretation of the disputed statute.

Justice Kagan wrote that the provision calls for "the alien" and the not "the alien or one of his parents" to fulfill the residency requirement.

Damien Sawyers was one of the immigrants facing deportation. He became a lawful permanent resident in 1995 and was convicted for having a controlled substance in 2002. Sawyers was a few months short of the seven year requirement.

The other potential deportee was Carlos Gutierrez. He was accused by the U.S. government of immigrant smuggling in 2005, two years after he became a lawful permanent resident.

Both parties argued that when Congress passed the disputed provision, they intended to allow aliens to include their parents' time in the requirement calculation.

However, the Court disagreed. In addition to agreeing with the reasonableness of the BIA's strict interpretation, the justices found no evidence of such an imputation.

It's not clear yet how many immigrants facing deportation will be affected by the Supreme Court's recent ruling. However, it's clear now that aliens won't be able to use their parents' residency to avoid getting kicked out of the country.

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