Last month, in Pereira vs. Session, the Supreme Court ruled 8 to 1 that the government has been sending invalid Notices to Appear (NTA) to noncitizens facing deportation. NTA’s are issued by the government to individuals who have overstayed their visas, are in illegal status, or violated the terms of their status to notify them of a date, time, and location for them to appear in front of an immigration judge for possible deportation or removal. NTA’s have been in the news lately as USCIS now will now issue NTA’s to adjustment of statuses that have been denied. To learn more about NTA’s, please click here.
Wescley Pereira arrived in the United States in 2000 on a 6 months visa and stayed for the next 16 years. When he was arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence, he was issued an NTA with a “to be set” written in place of a date, time, and location of the immigration court hearing. When the government notified him after the details were set, the letter was returned by the post office as “undeliverable”. Without his knowledge, the hearing took place and he was ordered to be removed in absentia. In 2013, when Mr. Pereira was pulled over for driving without his headlights on, he was turned over to the Department of Homeland Security for deportation. Because he had already lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years, and was a responsible member of the community with no criminal history and two U.S. citizen children, he was eligible to apply to have his deportation rescinded. However, the government argued that the waiver cannot be applied for him because his legal time in the United States should have stopped counting when he failed to show up to the hearing in 2006, thus resulting in only 6 years in the U.S. In the court decision, the Supreme Court denied this argument and ruled that for an NTA to be properly issued, it must, at a minimum, provide the noncitizen of notice of the information i.e. “the ‘time’ and ‘place’ that would enable them ‘to appear’ at the removal hearing in the first place”.
It is unclear at this time what effect this decision will have for the thousand of individuals waiting in line for deportation hearings, or whether or not it will only apply for individuals who are eligible for the Unlawful Presence Waiver, but it is reported that thousands of these NTA’s without date, time, or location have been issued. This decision could potentially pave way for these individuals to obtain relief from deportation.
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