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On May 21, 2012,  the Supreme Court announced its decision in Holder v. Gutierrez and Holder v. Sawyers.  The decision in Vartelas v. Holder, a related case, was issued on March 28. 

The central issue in Holder v. Gutierrez and Holder v. Sawyers was whether a non-citizen who cannot himself meet the requirements to avoid deportation (to have lived in the United States for at least seven years and have been lawful permanent resident for at least five years) can nevertheless avoid deportation if while still a minor he lived with a parent who could meet these requirements.  

In an opinion delivered by Justice Kagan, the Court held unanimously that the Board of Immigration Appeals’ interpretation of the relevant statute--that an alien must personally meet the status/residency requirements to avoid deportation and that parental status/residency cannot be imputed--was a permissible interpretation and entitled to judicial deference. 

The issue in Vartelas v. Holder was whether a statute providing for the denial of reentry to a lawful permanent resident who travels abroad after having been convicted of certain offenses can be applied retroactively to a legal permanent resident who was convicted prior to the passage of the statute.

In an opinion delivered by Justice Ginsburg, the Court held by a vote of 6-3 that the legal regime in force at the time of Vartelas’ conviction governs whether he may reenter the United States after traveling abroad, not the retroactive application of a statute passed after the date of his conviction.  Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg’s opinion.  Justice Scalia filed a dissenting opinion, which was joined by Justices Thomas and Alito.

To discuss these cases we have Amy Moore, who is an associate professor at Belmont University College of Law.

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