(CN) – Noncitizens living in the United States cannot fight removability by pointing to the length of time their parents lived in the country, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Immigration law authorizes the attorney general to cancel the removal of an alien from the United States upon the satisfaction of certain criteria, such as the length of time the alien has lawfully resided in the United States or the length of the permanent residency.
The high court consolidated two cases to resolve whether this statute allows aliens to rely on their parents’ immigration histories in fighting removal.
Carlos Martinez Gutierrez had hoped to use his parents’ histories in the United States to fight deportation after he was caught smuggling undocumented aliens across the border.
At the time of his arrest, 21-year-old Martinez Gutierrez had enjoyed the status of a lawful permanent resident for just two years. But his father was given that status in 1991, two years after Martinez Gutierrez entered the country illegally with his family at the age of 5.
Damien Antonio Sawyers was convicted for a drug offense and deemed removable in 2002, seven years after he was given lawful permanent resident status as a 15 year old. His mother had already been living in the country for six consecutive years after entering legally.
Immigration judges ruled differently on each man’s case. One judge said the immigration history of Martinez Gutierrez’s father could be imputed to the son to fight removability, but Sawyers’ judge refused to apply cancelation of removal because the alien was a few months shy of the required seven years of continuous residence.
The 9th Circuit eventually said the parents’ histories should count in both cases, leading the Supreme Court to consolidate the appeals for disposition in September.
It reversed the federal appeals court’s decisions Monday.
“The board has required each alien seeking cancellation of removal to satisfy §1229b(a)’s requirements on his own, without counting a parent’s years of continuous residence or LPR status,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the unanimous court. “That position prevails if it is a reasonable construction of the statute, whether or not it is the only possible interpretation or even the one a court might think best. We think the BIA’s view on imputation meets that standard, and so need not decide if the statute permits any other construction.”