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8463: Legal relief for Haitian immigrant (fwd)

From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>


   WASHINGTON, June 25 (AP) -- The Supreme Court granted a reprieve Monday
to many legal immigrants with criminal convictions, ruling they cannot be
deported without a court hearing.
   The 5-4 majority disagreed with a provision of a 1996 law that barred
court review of removal orders for immigrants convicted of aggravated
   The rulings, in two separate cases, primarily concerned those who
pleaded guilty under an old law that provided such review -- but faced
deportation proceedings under the new, more restrictive legislation.
   Lawyers representing immigrants have contended Congress could not
prevent judges from reviewing constitutional claims. The Justice Department
argued in favor of the law, saying the intent was to avoid delays in
removing criminals from the country.
   The rulings in both cases were 5-4.
   Justice John Paul Stevens, in the majority opinion, said aliens who
pleaded guilty under the old law "almost certainly relied" on their right
to a court review "in deciding whether to forgo their right to a trial. The
"elimination of any possibility of ... relief ... has an obvious and severe
retroactive effect," he wrote.
   "We therefore hold that relief remains available for aliens ... whose
convictions were obtained through plea agreements and who, notwithstanding
those convictions, would have been eligible for ... relief at the time of
their plea under the law then in effect."
   Two 1996 laws were at issue: the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility
Act. They dramatically altered the government's treatment of aliens who
commit crimes or face deportation for other reasons.
   Previously, some aliens facing deportation could seek a waiver from the
attorney general. The option disappeared for immigrants convicted of
aggravated felonies.
   One case involved a government appeal seeking to deport a man from Haiti
who pleaded guilty to a drug crime in Connecticut. The other involved an
appeal by three natives of the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Guyana who
were ordered deported for drug crimes in New York state.
   Immigration officials ordered all four aliens deported and said the new
law barred them from seeking a waiver.
   Stevens was joined in the majority by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, David
Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Dissenting were Justices
Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice
William Rehnquist.
   The Haitian, Enrico St. Cyr, won rulings by a federal trial judge and
the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowing him to seek a waiver because
his crime occurred before the new law took effect. The other three aliens
took similar arguments directly to the appeals court.
   In each case, the 2nd Circuit court said that because the new law barred
appeals court review of such issues, the aliens could file a petition in
federal trial court.
   Denying all court review would "raise a serious constitutional
question," the appeals court said in the St. Cyr case.
   The cases are Immigration and Naturalization Service v. St. Cyr, 00-767,
and Calcano-Martinez v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 00-1011.
   On the Net:
   For the appeals court rulings: http://www.uscourts.gov/links.html and
click on 2nd Circuit.
   Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov