WASHINGTON â€” The Supreme Court will decide whether the government is free to deport illegal immigrants who came to this country as children and whose parents became lawful residents in the United States.
The issue before the high court has echoes of last weekâ€™s debate among Republican presidential contenders, where Texas Gov. Rick Perry was criticized for his stateâ€™s policy of giving in-state tuition to students who are illegal immigrants. Perry argued that students who came to Texas through â€œno fault of their ownâ€ should not be denied the benefits of low tuition in the stateâ€™s colleges.
The case before the high court concerns whether U.S. immigration officials should avoid deporting illegal immigrants who came to this country as minors and, as Perry said, through no fault of their own. The government says it mainly targets criminals for deportation, and the immigrant in this case was arrested for trying to smuggle children across the border.
Courts on the West Coast have blocked deportation orders for some illegal immigrants because their parents had gained â€œpermanent residenceâ€ status and lived in the United States for more than seven years. Federal law cites these two factors as reasons for halting a deportation. And the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has taken it a step further, deciding that a â€œparentâ€™s status as a lawful permanent resident is imputedâ€ to the â€œchildren residing with that parent.â€
But Obama administration lawyers said the 9th Circuit is the only appeals court to adopt that view, and it is wrong as a matter of law. They urged the Supreme Court to rule that immigrants cannot â€œrely on a parentâ€™s statusâ€ as grounds for avoiding deportation.
In appealing the issue, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. said the 9th Circuitâ€™s approach â€œprecludes uniform administration of the immigration laws (and) also impedes the governmentâ€™s high-priority efforts to remove criminal aliens.â€
The government said it did not have statistics on how often this issue arises. However, it said more than 40 percent of â€œall cancellation of removal applicationsâ€ were filed last year in California and the other eight states where the 9th circuit had jurisdiction.
The case before the court concerns a Mexican native who came to California in 1989 when he was 5 years old. Carlos Martinez Gutierrez went to elementary and high school in Santa Clara County and has worked since then at a K-mart and a Costco Wholesale store.