Supreme Court Will Hear Immigration Case From Michigan This Fall


On June 8, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that this Fall it will hear an immigration case from Michigan.  The case involves a question of national importance about which persons are eligible to apply for a benefit in Immigration Court called Cancellation of Removal.

The case is called Niz-Chavez v. Barr.  Mr. Niz-Chavez had his removal hearing in Immigration Court in Detroit, Michigan.  He is a citizen of Guatemala who entered the United States without permission in 2005.  In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security issued him a document called a “Notice to Appear,” which listed the U.S. government’s immigration charges against Mr. Niz-Chavez, but did not list the date of his hearing in Immigration Court.  Later in 2013, the Immigration Court provided Mr. Niz-Chavez with a notice indicating the date and time of his hearing.

Mr. Niz-Chavez appeared in Immigration Court and requested certain forms of relief, but he did not ask for a benefit called Cancellation of Removal, because the Immigration Judge concluded that he was not eligible.  One of the requirements of Cancellation of Removal is that the applicant needs to be present in the United States for at least 10 years.  There is an immigration statute called the “stop-time rule,” which indicates that when the applicant calculates the time in the United States, the clock stops when the applicant receives the “Notice to Appear.”  Mr. Niz-Chavez received his Notice to Appear in 2013 – 8 years after his entry to the United States – but his hearing in Immigration Court did not occur until 2017 – more than 10 years after Mr. Niz-Chavez entered the United States.

The question that the Supreme Court will address in this case is whether the U.S. government was required to provide Mr. Niz-Chavez with one single document that contained all of the required information, including the date and time of his court hearing, in order to trigger the stop-time rule, or whether the U.S. government may still trigger the stop-time rule when it provides a Notice to Appear that does not contain all of the required information.

If the Supreme Court decides that the Notice to Appear must include all information, including the date and time of the Immigration Court hearing, then the stop-time rule would not have stopped the clock in Mr. Niz-Chavez’s case, and he would be able to apply for Cancellation of Removal.  On the other hand, if the Supreme Court decides that the U.S. government’s piecemeal delivery of information to Mr. Niz-Chavez over several documents still triggered the stop-time rule, then Mr. Niz-Chavez would not be able to apply for Cancellation of Removal.

The answer to this technical question could affect the cases of thousands of persons in Immigration Courts throughout the United States.  The Supreme Court will hear this case in Fall 2020, and will likely issue a decision by June 2021.

Posted in Federal Court Litigation.