INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289, 7 (2001)

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Cite as: 533 U. S. 289 (2001)

Opinion of the Court

admit excludable aliens. See id., at 187. That proviso, codified at 8 U. S. C. 1182(c), stated:

"Aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence who temporarily proceeded abroad voluntarily and not under an order of deportation, and who are returning to a lawful unrelinquished domicile of seven consecutive years, may be admitted in the discretion of the Attorney General . . . ."

Like 3 of the 1917 Act, 212(c) was literally applicable only to exclusion proceedings, but it too has been interpreted by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to authorize any permanent resident alien with "a lawful unrelinquished domicile of seven consecutive years" to apply for a discretionary waiver from deportation. See Matter of Silva, 16 I. & N. Dec. 26, 30 (1976) (adopting position of Francis v. INS, 532 F. 2d 268 (CA2 1976)). If relief is granted, the deportation proceeding is terminated and the alien remains a permanent resident.

The extension of 212(c) relief to the deportation context has had great practical importance, because deportable offenses have historically been defined broadly. For example, under the INA, aliens are deportable upon conviction for two crimes of "moral turpitude" (or for one such crime if it occurred within five years of entry into the country and resulted in a jail term of at least one year). See 8 U. S. C. 1227(a)(2)(A)(i)-(ii) (1994 ed., Supp. V). In 1988, Congress further specified that an alien is deportable upon conviction for any "aggravated felony," Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, 102 Stat. 4469-4470, 1227(a)(2)(A)(iii), which was defined to include numerous offenses without regard to how long ago they were committed.4 Thus, the class of aliens

4 See 8 U. S. C. 1101(a)(43) (1994 ed. and Supp. V). While the term has always been defined expansively, it was broadened substantially by IIRIRA. For example, as amended by that statute, the term includes all convictions for theft or burglary for which a term of imprisonment


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