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Some lawful permanent residents may face tougher deportations

While North Carolina residents and the General Assembly wait for the release of the Supreme Court's opinion on the high-profile immigration case involving a state's ability to create immigration law, the high court released a potentially influential opinion today in another immigration case. That case involved the interpretation of an immigration law regarding the deportation of lawful permanent residents.

Current immigration law specifies that lawful permanent residents who have held that status for five or more years and have resided in the U.S. for at least seven consecutive years can request clemency from immigration authorities in deportation proceedings. A number of immigrants who came to the country as children have taken the legal position that they should be able to count the years their parents have spent in the U.S. towards the residency criteria.

The federal government disagreed, however. Although immigration authorities have stated that they would rather see immigrant families remain together, they argued that immigrants can only count their own years in the country and years as a lawful permanent resident for the purposes of meeting the law's requirements. To permit the alternative, they said, would constrain the government's current focus on deporting immigrants with criminal records.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court sided with the government, reasoning that the government's arguments aligned with the language of the law. The ruling reverses a decision by a lower federal appellate court, which reached the opposite conclusion. The result in this case has the potential to affect a number of immigrants seeking leniency in deportation proceedings. Lawful permanent residents facing deportation should know what their options are in light of the Supreme Court's decision.

Source: Reuters, "Supreme court rules for government on immigrants' residence," James Vicini, May 21, 2012.

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