WASHINGTON (CN) —The Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide what happens when it is unclear whether the crime a person facing deportation committed prevents them from seeking to have their deportation canceled.
Facing deportation after coming to the United States illegally 25 years ago, Clemente Pereida sought to remain in the country by arguing his deportation would harm his son, who is a U.S. citizen.
An immigration judge denied his request to cancel his removal proceedings, citing Pereida’s misdemeanor conviction for using a fraudulent Social Security card to get a job in Nebraska. Pereida pleaded no contest to the charges and did not serve jail time.
The judge concluded the conviction prevented Pereida from seeking to cancel his removal proceedings because it constituted a crime of moral turpitude. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, nonpermanent residents cannot have their removal proceedings canceled if they have been convicted of such a crime.
The Board of Immigration Appeals upheld the decision, though it noted not every subsection of the law under which Pereida was convicted qualifies as a crime of moral turpitude and it is not clear from the record of his case into which subsection his conviction fell.
The board held, however, that Pereida was not eligible for relief from deportation because it was his burden to show the crime did not qualify as one of moral turpitude.
The Eighth Circuit denied Pereida’s petition to review the board’s determination.
He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the justices agreed Wednesday to resolve the dispute. Per their custom, they did not comment on the decision.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the court’s decision to take up the case.
Brian Goldman, an attorney with the San Francisco firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe who represents Pereida, said the lower court’s ruling “puts noncitizens like Mr. Pereida in the impossible position of proving the unprovable.”
“Its rule requires noncitizens to prove the details of a past crime, using only limited state records that are vague or that may no longer exist,” Goldman said in a statement.