INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289 (2001)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the second circuit

No. 00-767. Argued April 24, 2001—Decided June 25, 2001

Before the effective dates of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death

Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 was interpreted to give the Attorney General broad discretion to waive deportation of resident aliens. As relevant here, the large class of aliens depending on 212(c) relief was reduced in 1996 by 401 of AEDPA, which identified a broad set of offenses for which convictions would preclude such relief; and by IIRIRA, which repealed 212(c) and replaced it with a new section excluding from the class anyone "convicted of an aggravated felony," 8 U. S. C. 1229b(a)(3). Respondent St. Cyr, a lawful permanent United States resident, pleaded guilty to a criminal charge that made him deportable. He would have been eligible for a waiver of deportation under the immigration law in effect when he was convicted, but his removal proceedings were commenced after AEDPA's and IIRIRA's effective dates. The Attorney General claims that those Acts withdrew his authority to grant St. Cyr a waiver. The Federal District Court accepted St. Cyr's habeas corpus application and agreed that the new restrictions do not apply to removal proceedings brought against an alien who pleaded guilty to a deportable crime before their enactment. The Second Circuit affirmed.


1. Courts have jurisdiction under 28 U. S. C. 2241 to decide the legal issue raised by St. Cyr's habeas petition. Pp. 298-314.

(a) To prevail on its claim that AEDPA and IIRIRA stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to decide a pure question of law, as in this case, petitioner Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) must overcome both the strong presumption in favor of judicial review of administrative action and the longstanding rule requiring a clear and unambiguous statement of congressional intent to repeal habeas jurisdiction. Here, that plain statement rule draws additional reinforcement from other canons of statutory construction: First, when a statutory interpretation invokes the outer limits of Congress' power, there must be a clear indication that Congress intended that result; and


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