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Supreme Court Rules 8-1 For Immigrants in Statutory Eligibility Case.

Published: Jun 21, 2018

PEREIRA v. SESSIONS, 585 U. S. ____ (2018): 8-1 Decision. 

Held: A putative notice to appear that fails to designate the specifictime or place of the noncitizen’s removal proceedings is not a “noticeto appear under §1229(a),” and so does not trigger the stop-time rule.Pp. 7–20.

(a) The Court need not resort to Chevron deference, for the unambiguous statutory text alone is enough to resolve this case. Under the stop-time rule, “any period of . . . continuous physical presence” is“deemed to end . . . when the alien is served a notice to appear under section 1229(a).” 8 U. S. C. §1229b(d)(1). By expressly referencing§1229(a), the statute specifies where to look to find out what “notice to appear” means. Section 1229(a), in turn, clarifies that the type of notice “referred to as a ‘notice to appear’ ” throughout the statutory section is a “written notice . . . specifying,” as relevant here, “[t]he time and place at which the [removal] proceedings will be held.”§1229(a)(1)(G)(i). Thus, to 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 Government and dissent point out that the stop-time rule refers broadly to a notice to appear under “§1229(a)”—which includes paragraph (1), as well as paragraphs (2) and (3). But that does not matter, because only paragraph (1) bears on the meaning of a “notice to appear.” If anything, paragraph (2), which allows for a “change or postponement” of the proceedings to a “new time and place,”§1229(a)(2)(A)(i), bolsters the Court’s interpretation of the statute because the provision presumes that the Government has already served a “notice to appear” that specified a time and place as required by §1229(a)(1)(G)(i). Another neighboring provision, §1229(b)(1),lends further support for the view that a “notice to appear” must specify the time and place of removal proceedings to trigger the stop time rule. Section 1229(b)(1) gives a noncitizen “the opportunity to secure counsel before the first [removal] hearing date” by mandating that such “hearing date shall not be scheduled earlier than 10 days after the service of the notice to appear.” For that provision to have any meaning, the “notice to appear” must specify the time and place that the noncitizen, and his counsel, must appear at the removal proceedings.Finally, common sense reinforces the conclusion that a notice that does not specify when and where to appear for a removal proceeding is not a “notice to appear” that triggers the stop-time rule.After all, an essential function of a “notice to appear” is to provide noncitizens “notice” of the information (i.e., the “time” and “place”)that would enable them “to appear” at the removal hearing in the first place. Without conveying such information, the Government cannot reasonably expect noncitizens to appear for their removal proceedings.Pp. 7–13.

(b) The Government and the dissent advance a litany of counterarguments,all of which are unpersuasive. To begin, the Government mistakenly argues that §1229(a) is not definitional. That is wrong.Section 1229(a) speaks in definitional terms, requiring that a notice to appear specify, among other things, the “time and place at which the proceedings will be held.” As such, the dissent is misguided in arguing that a defective notice to appear, which fails to specify time and-place information, is still a notice to appear for purposes of the stop-time rule. Equally unavailing is the Government’s (and the dissent’s)attempt to generate ambiguity in the statute based on the word “under.” In light of the plain language and statutory context,the word “under,” as used in the stop-time rule, clearly means “in accordance with” or “according to” because it connects the stop-time trigger in §1229b(d)(1) to a “notice to appear” that specifies the enumerated time-and-place information. The Government fares no better in arguing that surrounding statutory provisions reinforce its preferred reading of the stop-time rule, as none of those provisions supports its a textual interpretation. Unable to root its reading in the statutory text, the Government and dissent raise a number of practical concerns, but those concerns are meritless and do not justify de-parting from the statute’s clear text. In a final attempt to salvage itsa textual interpretation, the Government turns to the alleged statutory purpose and legislative history of the stop-time rule. Even for those who consider statutory purpose and legislative history, however,neither supports the Government’s position. Requiring the Government to furnish time-and-place information in a notice to appear is entirely consistent with Congress’ stated objective of preventing noncitizens from exploiting administrative delays to accumulate lengthier periods of continuous precedent. Pp. 13–20.

866 F. 3d 1, reversed and remanded.

SOTOMAYOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS,C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, GINSBURG, BREYER, KAGAN, and GORSUCH,JJ., joined. KENNEDY, J., filed a concurring opinion. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion.

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