Supreme Court’s Decision in Niz-Chavez v. Garland may Provide Relief to some non-Citizens
The Supreme Court issued a ruling on April 29, 2021 that has resulted in some confusion and controversy for those in deportation or removal proceedings or with a deportation or removal order. However, it may create a possible relief for some non-citizens. The ruling states that for cases in which the immigration court issued a defective Notice to Appear in Immigration Court (NTA) to an individual in proceedings, then the government does not have the jurisdiction to remove or deport the individual.
What is a Defective NTA?
A Notice to Appear in Immigration Court (NTA) is considered defective if any critical information is missing, primarily the date and/or time of the hearing. This is important, as the Supreme Court’s ruling was inspired by the Niz-Chavez v. Garland case in which an individual in removal proceedings received two separate Notices to Appear – the first of which did not include the time and place of his hearing. As the second NTA included this information, the government deemed that the two written notices together legitimately included all the necessary information and as such, the stop-time rule applied.
What is the Stop-Time Rule?
This rule states that once an individual receives a written NTA, they are considered to be in removal proceedings, and they stop accruing time towards their 10-year residency needed to qualify for a form of relief called Cancellation of Removal for non-Lawful Permanent Residents. However, the Supreme Court ruled that in the Niz-Chavez case, the individual did not receive a standard single NTA that should have included the date and time and all other relevant information for the hearing. In Pereira v. Sessions, a similar case that was previously decided in 2018, the Supreme Court had also ultimately ruled that because the first NTA that an individual received did not include the time and place of his hearing, which caused him to miss the hearing, the stop-time rule did not apply. Based on this case, Immigration Judges cancelled thousands of removal proceedings in which individuals received defective NTAs.
Who Will Benefit the Most?
When upheld, the Supreme Court’s recent decision can serve as an advantage to those in proceedings who have received a defective NTA, since they will technically continue to accrue time towards their 10-year residency requirement.
A non-citizen in removal proceedings will then be eligible to apply for cancellation of their deportation case. In spite of this, because there are an estimated at least one million non-citizens who have received incomplete NTAs, the Supreme Court’s recent decision has already faced many challenges. Specifically, the government has sought to drastically restrict the decision’s reach. They have used such tactics as determining that the Supreme Court’s ruling only applies to very specific situations, such as cancellation of removal cases. It has also been argued that the ruling will create a potential avalanche of applications for cancellation of proceedings, which will overburden the immigration system and significantly tax government resources. This signals that there may be a long court battle ahead over this issue.
Nevertheless, while there is no guarantee that a non-citizen will win their case even if they received a defective NTA, one’s eligibility for relief under this important Supreme Court ruling should be evaluated if eligibility might lead to dismissal of a prior removal order or grounds for relief from deportation.