The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that most juveniles waiting for visas to remain in the United States will need to start the process anew when they turn 21, according to CNN
The court said that children who went down the slow-moving immigration road and "aged out" while waiting for visas are not entitled to receive special priority, The New York Times reported.
A 2002 law allows aged-out children to retain their initial "priority date" for immigration processing even if they reach 21.
The case, Scialabba v. De Osorio, involved Rosalina Cuellar de Osorio, a Salvadoran immigrant who sought a visa for herself and her 13-year-old son Melvin. He reached 21 before the process was completed and lost his "automatic conversion and priority date retention," the Times reported.
In its 65-page decision, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit which had ruled in favor of the family. The court majority ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals made a "reasonable" interpretation of the law in Osorio's case and that it would defer to the agency.
Writing for the majority, Justice Elena Kagan said she found the law's wording so perplexing that it was best not to micro-manage how the immigration agency interpreted it, The Washington Post
Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the majority, though he and Justice Antonin Scalia disagreed on their reading of the original law. The other justices who joined the majority were Anthony Kennedy and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In leading the dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor
found that the law "was broken from the moment Congress wrote it." Nevertheless, she believed that Congress did not intend for "aged-out" children to lose their place.
Justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, and Clarence Thomas all dissented for various reasons.
Lori Scialabba is the acting director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
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