Guatemalan undocumented immigrants fight deportation order U.S. Supreme Court votes 6 to 3 in favor

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 on the 29th in favor of Agusto Niz-Chavez, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, who is challenging the deportation order. The three conservative justices, Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett, joined by three liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor) voted together in favor of the lawsuit. Oral arguments in the lawsuit were held in November 2020 during former President Trump’s presidency.

Niz Chavez, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who arrived in the United States in 2005, first received a notice to appear in immigration court in 2013, but the notice sheet did not indicate a time or date to appear in court. Two months later, Niz Chavez received another notice of appearance, which clearly stated the time and date of the appearance.

Niz Chavez’s attorney pointed out to the court that the omission of the date from the notice may seem like a minor issue, but it does not comply with federal law and affects the fate of thousands of undocumented immigrants who face the prospect of remaining in the United States. 18 U.S.C. § 1229(b) provides that an undocumented immigrant’s deportation case may be dismissed if he or she has been in the United States for 10 consecutive years.

In this case, the Supreme Court’s discretion focused on whether an undated notice of appearance in immigration court was sufficiently effective to stop Niz Chavez’s stay from counting and preclude the application of 18 U.S.C. § 1229(b).

Gossage wrote a majority opinion stating that immigration officers must clearly indicate the time and date of the court appearance when sending notices of appearance to undocumented immigrants.

Gossage pointed out that under the 1996 immigration regulations, a notice to appear must specify all the information the person needs to know about the deportation hearing, but government agencies claim that providing all the information through a single notice to appear is “burdensome,” adding that Officials had to divide the notice into multiple copies, over a period of time, in order to complete it one by one.

He pointed out that the entire lawsuit decision seems to focus on the word “single”, but the role of the Supreme Court is to ensure that the executive branch can not exceed the authority given by Congress.