The case involved Rosalina Cuellar de Osorio, a Salvadoran immigrant who was in line for a visa along with her 13-year-old son. But after years of waiting, her son turned 21 and government officials said he no longer qualified as an eligible child. He was placed at the back of the line, resulting in a wait of several more years.
The family won its challenge before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision.
In a lengthy dissent, Sotomayor said there is no conflict in the law and it should be read to clearly allow all aged-out children to keep their place in line. She quotes a book by Scalia in which he says courts "do not lightly presume that Congress has legislated in self-contradicting terms."
Sotomayor was joined in dissent by Justices Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas. Justice Samuel Alito wrote a separate dissent.
A group of lawmakers in Congress when the law was passed — including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. — submitted a brief arguing against the government in the case.
Immigration reform groups were hoping the issue would be addressed in Congress. The Senate last year passed a bipartisan bill that would tighten border security, provide enforcement measures and offer a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. That measure stalled in the House, where Republicans have rejected a comprehensive approach in favor of a bill-by-bill process.
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