[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether a federal immigration law authorizing deportation can be applied to illegal immigrants who entered the country before its enactment. The case, Fernandez-Vargas v. Gonzales [Duke Law case backgrounder], 04-1376, involves Mexican immigrant Humberto Fernandez-Vargas, who entered the US in the 1970s and after several deportations lived in the US continuously since 1982. US immigration officials arrested Fernandez-Vargas on a 1981 deportation warrant while he was applying for citizenship in 2003. The officials reissued the warrant pursuant to a section [text] of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) enacted in 1997, which authorized prior warrants to be reinstated. Fernandez-Vargas argues that the law does not apply to illegal immigrants who entered the US before the law’s enactment; otherwise it would create a retroactive punishment. The circuit courts are divided on the issue with the Tenth and other circuits holding that the law applies to all immigrants regardless of their entry into the country. The ABA has merit briefs. AP has more.
The Court also heard arguments in Woodford v. Ngo [Duke Law case backgrounder], 05-416, in which a California inmate, Viet Mike Ngo, tried to file a complaint alleging a First Amendment violation with a federal district court after the penal system originally rejected his grievance due to lateness. The question presented is whether the Prison Litigation Reform Act [text; ACLU backgrounder], which requires prisoners to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing a complaint in court, bars an inmate who filed an untimely administrative appeal from suing in federal court. The ABA has merit briefs. AP has more.