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Question: I have been in the U.S. for the last 25 years and committed only 1 crime in 1996. However, I am in deportation now and they claim that I am an aggravated felon and not eligible for 212(c) relief and that I will be deported for the rest of my life. I committed the crime in August of 1996, and plead guilty the following October. Is there anything I can do to avoid deportation?

Answer: If you happen to live in the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit you are in luck. If you live elsewhere, I would get a good immigration attorney to fight for you up to the appellate level to make the same similar arguments that were made in the newly published 9th circuit case. First, it is necessary to have a little background. In 1996, Congress passed IIRAIRA which expanded quite considerably the definition of what crimes constitute an aggravated felony. It also repealed or took away 212(c) relief. This is a type of relief whereby if a person had a certain number of years in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident and committed a crime that was not an aggravated felony (basically any crime that they received less than five years of jail time), they could apply for this relief in deportation proceedings. If they won, they would get their Green Card back and could remain in the U.S.

From 1996 until sometime in 2001, every court was denying 212(c) relief because it was repealed by IIRAIRA. However, the Supreme Court of the United States came out with a case called St… Cyr. Which essentially stated that it was unconstitutional to retroactively apply IIRAIRA to these people. It stated that if someone PLEAD guilty before April of 1996, that they could now apply for 212(c).

While St.. Cyr was a great case, it left a group of people out of its ruling that were similarly situated, but did not fall under the exact parameters of this case. It was those people who COMMITTED the crime before the passage of IIRAIRA, but were CONVICTED after the passage. In these cases, these people for all these years have not been eligible for 212(c) and have been deported for the rest of their lives.

Question: What did this new case rule?

Answer: Cordes v. Gonzales held that post-IIRIRA case law (namely INS v. St. Cyr) limiting the availability of §212(c) relief, to legal permanent residents who had not committed deportable offenses at the time of their conviction offends equal protection when §212(c) is available to similarly situated permanent residents who committed deportable offenses at the time of their conviction. The “only discernible difference” between the two groups, the court said, is that “those entitled to section 212(c) relief faced deportation at the time they entered their guilty pleas.” “This difference, however, is ‘irrelevant and fortuitous’ since the [immigrant in this case] quite obviously faces deportation now,” the court said. The court also found there is no rational basis for the disparate treatment of lawful permanent residents who are eligible for §212(c) relief under St. Cyr based on the “ironic fortune of facing the prospect of deportation at the time that they entered their guilty pleas” and permanent residents, like Petitioner, who are not eligible simply because their crime was not serious enough to render them deportable at the time they pled guilty. The court said:

Allowing permanent residents who have committed worse crimes than Cordes to apply for section 212(c) relief, while denying the same opportunity to Cordes, does not achieve Congress’ express purpose behind the expanded definition of aggravated felony and its retroactive application: to expeditiously remove criminal aliens and make it more difficult for them to obtain relief from removal. Indeed, the disparate grant of section 212(c) relief here does not increase the total number of criminal aliens subject to removal, as Congress intended, but rather perversely increases only the number of less dangerous criminals subject to removal.”

Thus, this case now opens up the possibility of applying for 212(c) relief to those previously not eligible (at least in the 9th circuit court of appeals) and gives a much better fighting position to those in other jurisdictions to fight on this same basis.

Home » Immigration Updates » 212(c) Deportation Relief Expanded.

212(c) Deportation Relief Expanded.