Supreme Court rules green card holding immigrant subject to deportation

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision against a permanent immigrant resident subject to deportation for multiple crimes.

In a 5-4 decision split along ideological lines on Thursday, the high court issued a ruling to broaden the scope of crimes that make immigrants, including green card holders, ineligible to have their deportation orders canceled.

The case, Barton v. Barr, involved the U.S. government ordering Jamaican immigrant Andre Martello Barton to be deported in 2016 for multiple crimes in Georgia, including firearms violations, drug crimes, and aggravated assault offenses. Barton, a permanent resident who holds a green card, applied for a cancellation of removal, which the attorney general is authorized to grant under U.S. law so long as an immigrant meets certain eligibility requirements.

One such requirement demands that immigrants reside within the United States for at least seven years after being granted any form of legal status. However, the residency requirement is subject to “stop-time rule,” which halts time accrued within the country should an immigrant commit a crime, making them “inadmissible.” The law was part of the immigration package signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. At the time, Clinton lauded the package as legislation that “strengthens the rule of law by cracking down on illegal immigration at the border, in the workplace, and in the criminal justice system — without punishing those living in the United States legally.”

During the Obama administration in 2016, an immigration judge determined Barton violated the statute for state firearms and drug offenses, and thus was ineligible for his removal to be canceled. However, Barton argued that he was legally unable to be classified as “inadmissible” because he was not seeking admission or readmission to the U.S.

“Removal is particularly difficult when it involves someone such as Barton who has spent most of his life in the United States,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “Congress made a choice, however, to authorize removal of noncitizens — even lawful permanent residents — who have committed certain serious crimes … the immigration laws enacted by Congress do not allow cancellation of removal when a lawful permanent resident has amassed a criminal record of this kind.”

“We affirm the judgment of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit,” Kavanaugh continued, joined by fellow conservative Associate Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Chief Justice John Roberts.

In 2017, the Board of Immigration Appeal affirmed Barton’s deportation could not be waived because assault charges committed in 1996 triggered the stop-time rule within U.S. law, several months before the seven-year residency requirement was reached. In 2018, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the immigration judge’s decision nearly two years earlier.

Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer, argued that the majority decision was at fault for “contorting the statutory language,” and that the laws did not apply to Barton as a permanent resident who was already admitted.

“But in the mid-2000s, Barton developed a drug problem and was convicted twice on possession charges. After attending two drug rehabilitation programs, Barton was never arrested again. He graduated from college, began running an automobile repair shop, and became a father to four young children. Just a few years ago — nearly 10 years after his last arrest — the Government detained Barton and placed him in removal proceedings. Because he had been lawfully admitted to the country, the Government could not charge him with any grounds of inadmissibility. Rather, the Government charged, and Barton conceded, that he was deportable based on prior firearms and drug convictions,” Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, outlining Barton’s history.

“At bottom, the Court’s interpretation is at odds with the express words of the statute, with the statute’s overall structure, and with pertinent canons of statutory construction. It is also at odds with common sense,” she added.

The court decision makes Barton subject to deportation to Jamaica.

On Monday, Trump announced on Twitter his intention to sign an executive order to halt immigration temporarily during the coronavirus pandemic. “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!” he said.

The president later announced exceptions for landscapers, farmworkers, and other immigrants, saying the temporary ban was placed in order to protect American jobs.

“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrants, labor flown in from abroad,” Trump said at Tuesday’s White House coronavirus briefing, referring to the 22 million people who have filed for unemployment benefits over the past four weeks. “We must first take care of the American worker,” Trump said.

*story by The Washington Examiner