INS v. Rios-Pineda,
471 U.S. 444 (1985)

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U.S. Supreme Court

INS v. Rios-Pineda, 471 U.S. 444 (1985)

Immigration and Naturalization Service v. Rios-Pineda

No. 83-2032

Argued March 20, 1985

Decided May 13, 1985

471 U.S. 444


Section 244(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act allows the Attorney General to suspend an alien's deportation if the alien has been present in the United States for a continuous period of at least seven years, is of good moral character, and demonstrates that deportation would result in extreme hardship to the alien or to the alien's spouse or child, who is a United States citizen. Even if these prerequisites are satisfied, the Attorney General has discretion to refuse to suspend deportation. While the Act itself does not provide for reopening suspension proceedings once suspension has been denied, the Attorney General has promulgated regulations under the Act providing that a motion to reopen will be denied unless reopening is sought on the basis of circumstances that have arisen subsequent to the original deportation hearing. The Attorney General has delegated his authority and discretion to suspend deportation to special inquiry officers of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), whose decisions are subject to review by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). Respondents husband and wife, citizens of Mexico, were smuggled illegally into the United States in 1974. Respondent husband was apprehended in 1978, and, although at his request he was granted permission to return voluntarily to Mexico in lieu of deportation, he refused to leave as promised. Deportation proceedings were then instituted against respondents, who by that time had a child, who, being born in the United States, was a United States citizen. Following a December, 1978, hearing, an Immigration Judge denied respondents' request for suspension of deportation and ordered their deportation, and the BIA dismissed an appeal. After the Court of Appeals in 1982 had reversed the BIA's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings because respondents had accrued the requisite seven years' presence in the United States during the pendency of the appeal, respondents moved the BIA to reopen and requested suspension of deportation, in the meantime having had a second child born in the United States. The BIA denied the motion to reopen on the grounds, inter alia, that the seven years' presence and an additional child were available only because respondents had delayed departure by frivolous appeals, and that respondents' conduct had shown a blatant disregard for

Page 471 U. S. 445

the immigration laws. The Court of Appeals reversed and directed the BIA to reopen the proceeding, holding, inter alia, that respondents had made out a prima facie case of hardship, and that the factors relied on by the BIA did not justify its refusal to reopen.

Held: The refusal to reopen the suspension proceeding was within the Attorney General's discretion. If, as was required by the regulations, respondents' motion to reopen was based on intervening circumstances demonstrating 7-year residence and extreme hardship, the Attorney General, acting through the BIA, nevertheless had the authority to deny the motion. Although, by the time the BIA denied the motion, respondents had been in the United States for seven years, that was not the case when suspension of deportation was first denied; the seven years accrued during the pendency of respondents' baseless appeals. And the Attorney General did not abuse his discretion in denying reopening based on respondents' flagrant violation of the immigration laws in entering the United States, as well as respondent husband's willful failure to depart voluntarily after his request to do so was honored by the INS. Pp. 471 U. S. 449-452.

720 F.2d 529, reversed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except POWELL, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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