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One thing that caught Zimmer’s eye about the case is the fact that the federal courts of appeals have disagreed on the proper result. At issue is whether Pereira is eligible for “cancellation of removal” so that he can stay in the United States despite being eligible for deportation. Cancellation of removal is a discretionary form of relief that allows an individual to stay in the U.S. if deporting them would result in extreme hardship to a family member, including U.S.-citizen children. The attorney general is authorized to cancel removal for only 4,000 immigrants annually, according to the government’s brief . To be eligible, the immigrant must not have been convicted of certain crimes, and he or she must show “good moral character.” Critical to Pereira’s case, it also requires that the individual be in the U.S. for at least ten years—known as “continuous physical presence.” In order to discourage immigrants from purposely stalling their deportation proceedings in order to reach the continuous physical presence requirement, Congress enacted the stop-time rule, the government said. That rule freezes the clock on the continuous physical presence requirement whenever the immigrant receives a “notice to appear,” indicating that the government has begun deportation proceedings. But here, the notice of appear to Pereira didn’t include statutorily required elements like a date or time to appear. The Board of Immigration Appeals—which overseas appeals from immigration courts—said that such information isn’t necessary to stop the clock. Several circuits, including the First Circuit here , have deferred to the BIA’s determination under what’s known as Chevron deference. That’s the idea that courts should defer to an administrative agency’s interpretation of statutes.
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