[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled unanimously [opinion, PDF] Monday in Holder v. Gutierrez [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that an alien must individually satisfy the requirements of 8 USC § 1229b(a) rather than it being imputed on them by a parent. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the opinion of the court, which was simply that the Board of Immigration Appeals [official website] had created a tenable interpretation of the statute.
The Board, to be sure, did not highlight the statute’s gaps or ambiguity; rather, it read §1229b(a)’s text to support its conclusion that each alien must personally meet that section’s durational requirements. But the Board also explained that “there [was] no precedent” in its decisions for imputing status or residence, and distinguished those statutory terms, on the ground just explained, from domicile or abandonment of [lawful permanent resident] status. And the Board argued that allowing imputation under §1229b(a) would create anomalies in administration of the statutory scheme by permitting even those who had not obtained [lawful permanent resident] status—or could not do so because of a criminal history—to become eligible for cancellation of removal. The Board therefore saw neither a “logical” nor a “legal” basis for adopting a policy of imputation. We see nothing in this decision to suggest that the Board thought its hands tied, or that it might have reached a different result if assured it could do so.
The court reversed the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit held in Gutierrez and in the consolidated case Holder v. Sawyers [opinions, PDF] that the Board of Immigration must review their deportation orders and consider their parents’ years in lawful residence as well as if, as minors, they were residing with their legal immigrant parents.
The Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case in September and heard oral arguments [JURIST reports] in January. In April, the court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in Arizona v. United States to determine whether Arizona’s controversial immigration [JURIST backgrounder] law is preempted by federal law.