Niz-Chavez v. Garland: Immigration Act requires all statutory information be in a single notice-to-appear document for stop-time rule to apply
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires that a notice to appear contain all statutorily-required information in a single document in order for the “stop time” rule for continuance presence in the country to apply, the U.S. Supreme Court held April 29 in Niz-Chavez v. Garland.
The Government cannot supply the required information piecemeal through multiple documents over time, the Court ruled.
The Attorney General or other executive officials have discretion to allow otherwise removable noncitizens to remain in the U.S. if the noncitizens meet a number of conditions, including that they have been continuously present in the country for at least 10 years.
But the IIRIRA, Sec. 1229b(d)(1), contains a “stop time” rule, which states that any period of continuous presence in the country “shall be deemed to end .. when the alien is served a notice to appear.”
Sec. 1229(a)(1) requires that the notice to appear contain the nature of the proceedings against the noncitizen; the legal authority for the proceedings; the charges against the noncitizen; the fact that the noncitizen may be represented by counsel; the time and place of the hearing; and the consequences of failure to appear.
The Supreme Court granted cert. to resolve a circuit split over whether, for the “stop time” rule to apply, a notice to appear must contain the statutorily-required information in a single document.
The Government argued it needed “flexibility” to be able to provide the information in multiple documents over time, and that the “stop time” rule became effective at the point that all the required information had been delivered.
In a 6-3 opinion, the Supreme Court held, as a matter of statutory interpretation, that a single document with all the required information is necessary to trigger the “stop time” rule.
The statute requires that “a” notice containing the required information be served, the Court said. “[‘A’] notice would seem to suggest just that: ‘a’ single document containing the required information, not a mishmash of pieces with some assembly required.”
An indictment in a criminal case could not be “issued piece by piece over months or years,” the Court said. Congress did not intend for the case-initiating document here to be different.
“[T]he statute allows the government to invoke the stop-time rule only if it furnishes the alien with a single compliant document explaining what it intends to do and when,” the Court said.
“Our only job today is to give the law’s terms their ordinary meaning and, in that small way, ensure the federal government does not exceed its statutory license,” the Court said. “Interpreting the phrase ‘a notice to appear’ to require a single notice – rather than 2 or 20 documents – does just that,” the Court concluded.
An unusual group of justices formed the majority. Justice Gorsuch, who wrote the opinion, was joined by Justices Thomas, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan and Barrett.
Justice Kavanaugh, joined by Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts, dissented.