Supreme Court rules in favor of immigrant, marking ‘stop-time’ rule as clear
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Supreme Court rules in favor of immigrant, marking ‘stop-time’ rule as clear

The US Supreme Court [official website] decided [opinion, PDF] 8-1 Thursday in Pereira v. Sessions [docket] that a 10-year ‘continuous presence’ exception for nonpermanent residents does not stop upon notice to appear for removal proceedings if the notice indicates no time or place for which the resident would need to appear.

One component of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA) [text] cancels a non-permanant resident’s removal if they have been “physically present in the United States for a continuous period of not less than 10 years immediately preceding the date of [an] application” for cancellation. An exception to this, known as the “stop-time” rule cancels that running 10-year period if the person has been notified to appear for removal proceedings. But the court held Thursday that this clock still continues to run if the notice is unclear as to time or place of appearance.

The court said that the language behind the stop-time rule (Section 1229(a)) was unambiguous in the content requirements of what a proper stop-time-triggering notice should contain, including item (G)(i): “The time and place at which the [removal] proceedings will be held.”

For the majority, Justice Sotomayor wrote:

Conveying such time-and-place information to a noncitizen is an essential function of a notice to appear, for without it, the Government cannot reasonably expect the noncitizen to appear for his removal proceedings.

To hold otherwise would empower the Government to trigger the stop-time rule merely by sending noncitizens a barebones document labeled “Notice to Appear,” with no mention of the time and place of the removal proceedings, even though such documents would do little if anything to facilitate appearance at those proceedings.