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Cancellation of Removal and the Supreme Court Decision in Barton v. Barr

Criminal record and handcuffs on a desk.

An April decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Barton v. Barr addresses the so-called “stop-time” rule eligibility for cancellation of removal for lawful permanent residents (LPR). Under 8 U.S.C. §1229(a), the U.S government is authorized to begin removal proceedings against a lawful permanent resident who has committed certain serious crimes. If the immigration judge hearing the case finds the LPR removable, the removal may be canceled under certain circumstances.

The requirements for cancellation of removal for lawful permanent residents are found in U.S.C. §§1229b(a), which states that the Attorney General “may cancel removal in the case of an alien who is inadmissible or deportable from the United States if the alien:

  1. has been an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence for not less than 5 years,
  2. has resided in the United States continuously for 7 years after having been admitted in any status, and
  3. has not been convicted of any aggravated felony.”

The "stop-time" rule ends a person's "continuous residence" in the United States as of the time that the person commits an offense that would render him or her inadmissible to, or removable from, the United States pursuant to federal law. An individual who might otherwise meet the seven-year residence requirement, making them eligible for cancellation of removal, would become ineligible if the stop-time rule is applied.

Barton v. Barr

The plaintiff in Barton v. Barr was Andre Martello Barton, a lawful permanent resident who had been admitted to the country in 1989 on a visitor's visa, became a lawful permanent resident in 1992, and was subsequently convicted of a number of state crimes. Those crimes included three counts of aggravated assault, one count of criminal damage to property, and one count of possession of a firearm during commission of a felony in 1996. Barton was also convicted of multiple drug offenses under state law in 2007 and 2008.

Based on the firearms and drug offenses, an immigration judge found that Barton was removable from the United States. Barton applied to have his removal cancelled. The immigration judge decided that since Barton had committed aggravated assault within seven years of being admitted to the country, those offenses had stopped the clock regarding Barton's continuous residence. In other words, the stop-time rule prevented Barton from being eligible for removal.

Barton appealed this decision, but both the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the immigration judge's ruling. The Supreme Court then addressed the question of whether a noncitizen who has already been admitted to the country, and who is not seeking readmission, may be deemed inadmissible for purposes of applying the stop-time rule.

The Supreme Court Ruling and What it Means

Barton was a lawful permanent resident of the United States who was properly admitted to the country. As such, he could only be removed pursuant to charges under the deportability provisions of immigration law. His 1996 aggravated assault conviction was considered a crime involving moral turpitude(CIMT). Crimes involving moral turpitude can trigger deportation, but the law refers to CIMTs committed within five years of admission. Barton's CIMT was committed outside that time frame. Therefore, he was not deported at that time.

But in the current removal matter, the government argued that Barton's conviction of aggravated assault rendered him "inadmissible," rather than deportable. Unlike deportation, inadmissibility can arise from a crime of moral turpitude committed more than five years after admission.

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, accepted the government's argument and upheld the decisions of the lower courts. Barton's 1996 aggravated assault, committed within his first seven years in the U.S., was a crime involving moral turpitude which triggered the stop-time provision and made him ineligible for cancellation of removal. The Court held that an offense committed within those initial seven years did not need to be one of the offenses leading to the removal proceedings.

What does this mean for others in the wake of Barton? One impact of Barton is that even an alien who has been admitted to the United States can be deemed to be inadmissible by virtue of a crime committed after they were admitted. A crime an alien committed in the distant past, which itself cannot lead to removal proceedings, can still have an impact on the alien’s ability to remain in this country.

If you are a lawful permanent resident or other nonresident with a criminal history, your ability to remain in the United States could be at risk. Contact our law office to schedule a consultation with an experienced Maryland immigration attorney to review your situation.

Categories: Immigration Law