Illegal Immigrant Allowed To Stay In The States For Over A Decade Because Of One Word

This week the Supreme Court voted in favor of an illegal immigrant who could potentially be deported arguing that they are entitled to some leeway because the fault lies with the government for not following the rules.

Federal law says that an illegal immigrant in such a situation can avoid deportation at the attorney general's discretion if they have been in the U.S. for at least 10 years. The clock officially stops when they receive "a notice to appear" with information about their hearing. But in cases like plaintiff Agusto Niz-Chavez's, the government sent multiple documents containing different pieces of information. The court's majority ruled that because the law says "a" notice, that means it must be a single document.

"At one level, today’s dispute may seem semantic, focused on a single word, a small one at that," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the court's opinion. "But words are how the law constrains power. In this case, the law’s terms ensure that, when the federal government seeks a procedural advantage against an individual, it will at least supply him with a single and reasonably comprehensive statement of the nature of the proceedings against him."

Gorsuch led an unusual collection of justices in the 6-3 decision. Siding with him were liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer, as well as conservatives Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas. Justice Brett Kavanaugh penned the dissent, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito.

The government admitted that it can be difficult to send all of the information needed in just one notice because the location or date of a hearing could change.

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