The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday in Judulang v. Holder [SCOTUSblog backgrounder; JURIST report] that the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) [official website] policy for deciding when resident aliens may apply to the Attorney General for relief from deportation under a now-repealed provision of the immigration laws is arbitrary and capricious. Joel Judulang, the son of immigrants from the Philippines, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in 1989 and later claimed that he could seek a discretionary waiver of deportation under 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) [text]. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [opinion, PDF] that Judulang's aggravated felony crime of violence was not a ground for exclusion under the statute. In an unanimous opinion authored by Justice Elena Kagan, the court concluded:
We must reverse an agency policy when we cannot discern a reason for it. That is the trouble in this case. The BIA's comparable-grounds rule is unmoored from the purposes and concerns of the immigration laws. It allows an irrelevant comparison between statutory provisions to govern a matter of the utmost importancewhether lawful resident aliens with longstanding ties to this country may stay here. And contrary to the Government's protestations, it is not supported by text or practice or cost considerations. The BIA's approach therefore cannot pass muster under ordinary principles of administrative law.The court reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.
Also Monday, the court issued a per curiam opinion [text, PDF] in Hardy v. Cross [docket; cert. petition, PDF]. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) [Cornell LII backgrounder] "imposes a highly deferential standard for evaluating state-court rulings and demands that state-court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt." The court found that the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit departed from this standard when it reversed a district court's denial of Irving Cross' habeas corpus petition.