Immigration Law

Supreme Court, 6-3, on Retroactivity: Vartelas v. Holder

"This case presents a question of retroactivity not addressed by Congress: As to a lawful permanent resident convicted of a crime before the effective date of IIRIRA, which regime governs, the one in force at the time of the conviction, or IIRIRA? If the former, Vartelas’ brief trip abroad would not disturb his lawful permanent resident status. If the latter, he may be denied reentry. We conclude that the relevant provision of IIRIRA, §1101(a)(13)(C)(v), attached a new disability (denial of reentry) in respect to past events (Vartelas’ pre-IIRIRA offense, plea, and conviction). Guided by the deeply rooted presumption against retroactive legislation, we hold that §1101(a)(13)(C)(v) does not apply to Vartelas’ conviction.The impact of Vartelas’ brief travel abroad on his permanent resident status is therefore determined not by IIRIRA, but by the legal regime in force at the time of his conviction. ... Satisfied that Vartelas’ case is at least as clear as St. Cyr’s for declining to apply a new law retroactively, we hold that Fleuti continues to govern Vartelas’ short-term travel.  For the reasons stated, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion." - Vartelas v. Holder, Mar. 28, 2012.

Link to the SCOTUSblog page containing briefs & commentary:

Hats off to Prof. Stefanos Bibas!