Supreme Court Issues Decision Helpful to Immigrants This Week

The Supreme Court issued an important decision, Vartelas v. Holder, No. 10-1211, rejecting the retroactive application of a provision of a law passed by Congress in 1996 that has prevented many lawful permanent residents (LPRs) from returning to the United States after a trip abroad. Citing the “deeply rooted presumption” against applying new laws retroactively, the Court ruled 6-3 that LPRs who temporarily leave the country cannot be denied readmission on account of criminal convictions that occurred before the law took effect.

The Justice Department argued that LPRs with certain criminal convictions may be barred from re-entering the United States any time they leave the country—even if the law in effect at the time of their guilty pleas did not make them eligible for deportation or ineligible for reentry to the United States. The Supreme Court rejected this argument, noting that the government’s interpretation effectively prevented such LPRs from ever leaving the country.

There are still serious consequences, however, for certain LPR’s with criminal convictions after 1996, who leave the country and try to return. While, historically, they may have had no problems returning in the past, many of these people are now being arrested at the airport upon their return after short visits abroad. Our law firm of Coane and Associates, PLLC continues to represent LPR’s facing these exact problems.


About the author: Bruce Coane is an attorney who specializes in labor and employment law, and, immigration law, with offices in Florida and Texas. He may be reached at, 713-850-0066 or 305-538-6800.