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Supreme ruling on ambiguous Immigration Law

by on July 23, 2020

To our collective gain and detriment “it is emphatically the province and duty of the court to say what the law is.”  The Supreme Court gets to make decisions that we agree with and that we disagree with.

The case of Clemente Avelino Pereida v. William P. Barr, which the Court is scheduled to hear in October 2020, is a case that that could impact a lot of people. And by people, I mean refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants, and all noncitizens in the United States. Disregarding the fact that the petition’s (Pereida) brief contents the government’s (Barr) case, rests on an “assertion that the least-acts-criminalized presumption does not apply to the modified portion of the categorical approach,” the case case is not that complicated.

The issue of the case, summarized by SCOTUS blog, is “whether a criminal conviction bars a noncitizen from applying for relief from removal when the record of conviction is merely ambiguous as to whether it corresponds to an offense listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

Nowhere in the petition’s brief describes what kind of crime Pereida was accused of, which means it was, at most, a misdemeanor. Because state law is not identical to federal law the government is required to prove, in order to deport him, that Pereida’s offense rose to the level of a violation of a federal law. Whatever law Pereida violated, it was minor enough (a “low-level misdemeanor”) that he entered into a verbal plea agreement with the state, and there is no record of what he was charged with.

Nonetheless, when an immigrant appears in front of an Immigration Judge to apply for relief, past history and behavior is taken into account. The judge has the ability to deny relief and immediately expel the immigrant from the United States. When relief is granted, and it’s ambiguous as to why relief was granted, the Supreme Court has previously held – and it’s the current precedent – that relief is granted, and the immigrant remains in the United States.

Pereida v. Barr is a case that could impact immigration policies for decades. Like all other people immigrants have a right to due process, and a ruling that Pereida and other immigrants could be deported for ambiguous reasons would have a huge negative impact on our country. While the Supreme Court rules on what the law is, due process and the rights of immigrants are enshrined in international law as well. The case is not complicated. Immigrants have a right to due process, and a right to relief (the right to remain here) when he/she doesn’t violate the Immigration and Nationality Act.

From → Law

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