INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289, 6 (2001)

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Opinion of the Court

the petition of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). We shall therefore preface our discussion of those questions with an overview of the sources, history, and scope of that law.

Subject to certain exceptions, 3 of the Immigration Act of 1917 excluded from admission to the United States several classes of aliens, including, for example, those who had committed crimes "involving moral turpitude." 39 Stat. 875. The seventh exception provided "[t]hat aliens returning after a temporary absence to an unrelinquished United States domicile of seven consecutive years may be admitted in the discretion of the Secretary of Labor, and under such conditions as he may prescribe." Id., at 878.2 Although that provision applied literally only to exclusion proceedings, and although the deportation provisions of the statute did not contain a similar provision, the INS relied on 3 to grant relief in deportation proceedings involving aliens who had departed and returned to this country after the ground for deportation arose. See, e. g., Matter of L, 1 I. & N. Dec. 1, 2 (1940).3

Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which replaced and roughly paralleled 3 of the 1917 Act, excluded from the United States several classes of aliens, including those convicted of offenses involving moral turpitude or the illicit traffic in narcotics. See 66 Stat. 182- 187. As with the prior law, this section was subject to a proviso granting the Attorney General broad discretion to

2 The INS was subsequently transferred to the Department of Justice. See Matter of L, 1 I. & N. Dec. 1, n. 1 (1940). As a result, the powers previously delegated to the Secretary of Labor were transferred to the Attorney General. See id., at 2.

3 The exercise of discretion was deemed a nunc pro tunc correction of the record of reentry. In approving of this construction, the Attorney General concluded that strictly limiting the seventh exception to exclusion proceedings would be "capricious and whimsical." Id., at 5.

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