Council Files Amicus Brief with Supreme Court on Fair, Consistent Way to Interpret Aggravated Felony Deportation Ground

Pugin v. Garland; Cordero-Garcia v. Garland (S. Ct.)


April 14, 2023


March 23, 2023

The amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to correct the Board of Immigration Appeals' (BIA) mistake in not applying that criminal "rule of lenity" when interpreting the aggravated felony deportation ground, because an aggravated felony conviction leads not only to mandatory deportation but also serious criminal penalties.

The rule of lenity says that if a statute could reasonably be interpreted two different ways, courts should pick the meaning that carries less punishment. The brief explains that even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly found that the criminal rule of lenity applies to unclear aggravated felony provisions, the BIA has only applied the rule in one published decision in its history. The brief argues that the BIA's failure to apply the rule of lenity has led to inconsistent, unfair, and incorrect interpretations of the aggravated felony statute.

The American Immigration Council filed this brief along with co-counsel the Immigrant Defense Project and also on behalf of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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