On Thursday the Supreme Court of the United States judged in favor of an undocumented immigrant challenging his removal from the U.S. by immigration authorities. Agusto Niz-Chavez, an undocumented Guatemalan who illegally crossed the U.S. southern border in 2005. Niz-Chavez settled in Detroit, Michigan where the government “initiated removal proceedings against him” in 2013.
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the opinion of the court, joined by Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett. The case “is a blow to the government’s efforts to expedite the removal of some undocumented immigrants amid a surge of illegal entries to the U.S. that have clogged court systems and strained enforcement capabilities” reports ABC News.
First, Niz-Chavez was sent a notice of the charges and then a second notice with an included date and time to appear in court. The “timing of the multiple notices was at the heart of the case. Under federal law, an immigrant can only appeal a removal order if they’ve been in the US. Continuously for at least 10 years, and the same law says that the clock stops once a notice to appear is issued” reports ABC News.
The court’s 6-3 decision authored by Gorsuch said the Justice Department violated federal law by not providing immigrants it seeks to deport with a single, comprehensive “notice to appear” with details on the charges and scheduled court appearance. Niz-Chavez’s argument was the multiple notices he received did not constitute a single notice to appear as required by law.
Gorsuch’s opinion stated, “at one level, today’s dispute may seem semantic, focused on a single word, a small one at that. But words are how the law constrains power. In this case, the law’s terms ensure that, when the federal government seeks a procedural advantage against an individual, it will at least supply him with a single and reasonably comprehensive statement of the nature of the proceedings against him.”