INS v. Hector

479 U. S. 85

November 17, 1986

Virginia Hector was an illegal immigrant who arrived in America from Dominica in 1975. She was later joined by two nieces, who left their natural parents in Dominica in order to take advantage of America’s education system. Eventually, INS caught wind of this arrangement, and began proceedings to have Hector deported. Hector attempted to take advantage of a law that blocked deportation if, among other things, that deportation would cause hardship to a “spouse, parent, or child.” She argued that her relationship with her nieces was like a parent-child relationship, and thus her nieces ought to qualify under the act as children.

In a per curiam opinion, the Supreme Court summarily slapped down Hector’s argument. The statute defined the term “child” in excruciating detail, and the nieces patently did not qualify. In all honesty, it’s a wonder the case even got to the Supreme Court at all, so thoroughly was the law on the side of the INS. Even so, the vote was 7-2. Marshall, as always, objected to the Court issuing a decision without allowing the parties to present their cases. More surprisingly, Brennan maintained that the case should receive oral argument. Probably he felt empathy for the nieces, and was interested in looking for some out, however tenuous it would have been.

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