Immigrants score almost unanimous decision against Jeff Sessions in the Supreme Court


Immigrants received a near-unanimous victory from the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday morning in a case involving a Brazil native who did not receive a specific time and date to show up for a removal proceeding.

The court ruled 8-1 in favor of Wescley Fonseca Pereira against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who filed a brief in the case in March, and overturned the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the so-called stop-time rule was in effect when Pereira failed to show for a status hearing.

Pereira originally came to the U.S. in 2000 and overstayed his visa. In 2006, DHS served him a notice to appear, but it never gave an exact date and time. DHS later sent him a date and time but it was not received by Pereira and he never showed. He was later arrested in March 2013 for a driving violation, and after DHS attempted to remove him, Pereira challenged that his removal could be canceled by claiming he never received a notice.

Immigrants who have significant ties to the country—those who have been in the U.S. for over 10 consecutive years—are subject to special discretionary relief. Pereira would be eligible if the time clock did not stop with his 2006 notice.

The Board of Immigration Appeals later found against Pereira’s claim and so did the First Circuit, but the Supreme Court overwhelmingly disagreed.

“[T]o trigger the stop-time rule, the Government must serve a notice to appear that, at the very least, ‘specif[ies]’ the ‘time and place’ of the removal hearing,” the decision, penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, explained.

And the decision noted the notice to appear without a time and place is “defective.”

The court ruled that the statute challenged in the Pereira case spells out the requirements for a time-stopping notice to appear in black-and-white. It expressly notes that such a notice must specify “[t]he time and place at which the [removal] proceedings will be held,” the Court ruled in a short, concise decision.

Calling on government agencies to explicitly detail requirements comes as Congress attempts to pass new immigration legislation for a system that has long been derided as broken, including by President Donald Trump as well as his detractors.

Only Justice Samuel Alito dissented, citing Chevron USA Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Under that decision, if a federal statute is ambiguous and the agency that is authorized to implement it offers a reasonable interpretation, then a court is supposed to accept that interpretation,” Alito wrote.

The decision follows an eventful number of weeks for immigrants, Sessions and the Trump administration. Sessions, a longtime immigration hardliner, announced last month a “zero-tolerance” policy that would criminally charge illegal entries across the U.S. southern border, which resulted in more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents and detained in various centers around the country.