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Vartelas v. Holder

566 U.S. 257 (2012)

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Vartelas v. Holder

United States Supreme Court

566 U.S. 257 (2012)

Facts

Panagis Vartelas (plaintiff) became a lawful permanent resident alien of the United States in 1989. In 1994, Vartelas was convicted of conspiring to make a counterfeit security. Vartelas served four months in prison and two years of supervised release for that felony. Following his release from prison, Vartelas made numerous trips to his native Greece to visit his parents. Prior to 1996, an alien with a felony conviction could travel abroad for brief periods without jeopardizing his resident alien status. In 1996, congress enacted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). Section 1101(a)(13) of the IIRIRA precluded foreign travel by lawful permanent residents who had certain felony convictions, including crimes of moral turpitude. Vartelas’s 1994 conviction fell within this category. Congress did not address in the law whether the IIRIRA should be applied retroactively to crimes committed before its enactment. In 2003, while returning from a trip to Greece, an immigration officer classified Vartelas as an alien seeking admission under IIRIRA, based on Vartelas’s 1994 felony conviction. At Vartelas’s removal proceedings, the immigration judge ordered Vartelas removed to Greece. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) affirmed the immigration judge’s decision. In 2008, Vartelas filed a motion with the BIA to reopen the removal proceedings. In his motion, Vartelas argued that the IIRIRA provision that classified him as an alien seeking admission could not be applied retroactively. The BIA denied the motion, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the BIA’s decision.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ginsburg, J.)

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