Amicus Brief for Vartelas v. Holder

On January 18th, 2012, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Vartelas v. Holder, a case that raised the question of whether the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which strips lawful permanent residents of the United States of the right to travel abroad briefly and be guaranteed reentry, can be applied retroactively to a green-card holder who pleaded guilty to an offense before 1996 and traveled abroad thereafter.

LatinoJustice joined the NYU Immigrants Rights Clinic, Asian American Justice Center, National Council of La Raza, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrants Rights and others in appealing the retroactive application of the 1996 repeal of a policy which permitted long-term legal permanent residents returning from a short trip abroad not to be treated as “arriving aliens” that would need to pass inspection for re-admittance into US.

This retroactive application meant that many legal permanent residents who had not received jail time for prior convictions were detained and denied re-admittance as an arriving immigrants, could be held indefinitely in any immigration detention center anywhere in U.S., with no legal right to seek bond or bail before an Immigration Judge. This resulted in the breaking up of many long-time U.S. families of green card holders from before 1997 who have lived in U.S. for minimum of 14 yrs.

The amicus details several examples of Latino legal permanent residents who were detained for indefinite periods ranging from 7 to 20 months for prior minor offenses that were often 15 to 20 years old.

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