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Supreme Court issues clarification on deportation rule

This week, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the length of legal residency by immigrant parents cannot be considered in deportation cases involving their children. The ruling overturns an appeals court decision stating that immigrants who entered the country as children can use their parents' legal residency when fighting deportation.

In deportation cases, immigrants who have been lawful permanent residents for at least five years and have lived in the country for seven years straight can be granted leniency. The Supreme Court held that while family unity is a factor considered in deportation cases, federal immigration law clearly states that immigrants must satisfy their own residency requirements for the leniency to be applied.

The Supreme Court said that it agreed with the Obama Administration's argument that allowing adult children to use their parents' residency could interfere with the goal of deporting immigrants with criminal records.

The decision involved two cases. In one, a Mexican immigrant had been a lawful permanent resident since 2003. The young man was stopped at the Mexican border in 2005 and was charged with smuggling immigrants into the country.

Because he had not been a lawful permanent resident for five years, he argued that his parents' lawful residency should be used to grant leniency in effort to avoid being deported.

In the other case, a Jamaican citizen became a lawful permanent resident in 1995. In 2002, he was convicted of having a controlled substance, and in 2005, he was convicted of cocaine possession. He argued that his time spent living as a minor in the country with his permanent resident mother should count toward the residency requirement to avoid deportation.

This decision was unrelated to the other important immigration case pending before the Supreme Court that questions the validity of Arizona's controversial immigration law, much like the one in South Carolina and other states. A decision is expected on that case by the end of June.

Source: Reuters, "Supreme court rules for government on immigrants' residence," James Vicini, May 21, 2012

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