Oral argument: Jan. 18, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Sept. 9, 2010)
Petitioner Panagis Vartelas, a Greek citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States, pleaded guilty to counterfeiting and was convicted in 1994. In 2003, following a brief trip to Greece, Vartelas received notice to appear for removal proceedings. The immigration judge ordered Vartelas’s deportation, after deeming Vartelas inadmissible under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. Vartelas argues that application of this 1996 Act to his 1994 crime violates the presumption against retroactivity and the reasonable expectations he had when entering his guilty plea. Respondent Attorney General Eric Holder argues that Vartelas’s case does not have a retroactive effect because it penalizes acts conducted after the statute’s enactment: Vartelas’s decision to leave and re-enter the United States. This case affects lawful permanent residents who were convicted of crimes prior to the Act’s enactment. The Supreme Court’s decision could restrict their ability to travel internationally, which in turn could damage their ability to maintain family ties or fulfill religious obligations.