(CN) - The Supreme Court agreed Monday to review the removability of a Filipino who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in California more than 20 years ago, but who says he should be able stay in the country as both of his parents became naturalized U.S. citizens.
Joel Judulang argued in his brief that the circuit courts are split three ways as to whether lawful permanent residents can seek discretionary relief from removal after they are rendered as such through certain guilty pleas. Under current guidelines, an immigrant in Judulang's situation must leave and re-enter the United States after their conviction to seek relief under former Section 212(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
"The practical result was suddenly to foreclose 212(c) relief for large numbers of LPRs [legal permanent residents] whose attachment to the United States was so strong that they had not left the country following their conviction," according to the brief authored by Judulang's attorney, Mark Fleming with Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.
"Although Section 212(c) was repealed in 1996, it remains of critical importance to numerous longstanding residents of this country, many of whom - like Mr. Judulang - have worked hard for many years, have the support of U.S. citizen family members who in turn depend on them for support, have U.S. citizen children, and have made valuable contributions to their communities," Fleming continued. "The BIA [Board of Immigration Appeals] would now deny these individuals the right to apply for relief that previously was available and that this Court reaffirmed in St. Cyr,
based solely on the arbitrary nature of their travel history. Moreover, the three-way circuit split means that eligibility for relief currently depends on which circuit hears the appeal.
In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in INS v. St. Cyr
that Section 212(c) is still available to certain aliens.
"Although this question was twice presented last term, neither case proved an adequate vehicle, perhaps because Justice Kagan acted as counsel for the government in both cases," Fleming wrote. "This case poses no such problem. Accordingly, this Court should grant certiorari to review the judgment of the Ninth Circuit and bring much-needed uniformity to this important question."
Attorney General Eric Holder noted in his reply that the 44-year-old Judulang was convicted on manslaughter in 1989, about 15 years after entering the United States. Another 14 years later, Judulang was convicted of grand theft of property valued at more than $400.
An immigration judge ruled in 2005 that Judulang was removable, and the BIA dismissed Judulang's claim that he received derivative U.S. citizenship through his parents. The 9th Circuit affirmed
in 2007 and denied to grant a rehearing en banc.