Supreme Court: Immigrants Facing Deportation Must Prove Lack of Convictions Themselves

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Justice Department Thursday in a dispute over burden of proof for a request to cancel an undocumented immigrant’s removal, reports the Courthouse News Service. The 5-3 ruling comes in the case of Clemente Pereida, who is facing deportation after coming to the United States illegally 25 years ago. He sought to remain in the country by arguing his deportation would harm his son, who is a U.S. citizen. An immigration judge denied Pereida’s request to cancel his removal proceedings, citing his misdemeanor conviction for using a fraudulent Social Security card to get a job in Nebraska. Pereida pleaded no contest to the charge and did not serve jail time. The judge concluded the conviction prevented Pereida from trying to cancel his removal proceedings because it constituted a crime of “moral turpitude.” Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, nonpermanent residents cannot have their removal proceedings canceled if they have been convicted of such a crime.

In Thursday’s opinion, Gorsuch shot down Pereida’s argument that the incomplete record should work in his favor. He instead noted Pereida’s immigration proceedings happened alongside his criminal case, which should have given him plenty of chances to provide details about his conviction with help from his counsel. Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, argued the majority should have taken the missing information more seriously. He said the immigration court’s categorical approach limits the record that can be used to determine the nature of the crime and the deportability of the defendant.

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