JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 244(a)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), 66 Stat. 214, as amended, 8 U. S. C. § 1254(a)(1), allows the Attorney General to suspend the deportation of an alien. To warrant such action, the alien must have been physically present in the United States for a continuous period of at least seven years, be of good moral character, and demonstrate that deportation would result in extreme hardship to the alien, or the alien's "spouse, parent, or child,
Respondents, a married couple, are natives and citizens of Mexico. Respondent husband illegally entered the United States in 1972. Apprehended, he returned to Mexico in early 1974 under threat of deportation. Two months later, he and respondent wife paid a professional smuggler $450 to transport them into this country, entering the United States without inspection through the smuggler's efforts. Respondent husband was again apprehended by INS agents in 1978. At his request, he was granted permission to return voluntarily to Mexico in lieu of deportation. He was also granted two subsequent extensions of time to depart, but he ultimately declined to leave as promised. INS then instituted deportation proceedings against both respondents. By that time, respondent wife had given birth to a child, who, born in the United States, was a citizen of this country. A deportation hearing was held in December 1978. Respondents conceded illegal entry, conceded deportability, but requested
In July 1980, respondents filed a petition for review in the Court of Appeals, which automatically stayed their deportation pursuant to 8 U. S. C. § 1105a(a)(3). Asking that the court order their deportation suspended, respondents asserted substantially the same claims rejected by the BIA: that the Immigration Judge should have given them Miranda warnings, that their deportation was an unlawful de facto deportation of their citizen child, and that respondent husband should have been considered present in the United States for seven years. In March 1982, 15 months after the briefs were filed, the Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the BIA and remanded the case for further proceedings. Rios-Pineda v. United States Department of Justice, 673 F.2d 225 (CA8). The Court of Appeals was of the view that during the pendency of the appeals, respondents had accrued the requisite seven years' continuous physical presence in the United States. Id., at 227. Because of this development, the court directed the BIA to allow respondents 60 days to file a motion to reopen their deportation proceeding and cautioned the BIA "to give careful and thorough consideration to the . . . motion to reopen if, indeed, one is filed." Id., at 228, n. 5. During the pendency of the appeals, respondent wife gave birth to a second citizen child.
Respondents then moved the BIA to reopen and requested suspension of deportation. They alleged that deportation would result in extreme hardship in that their two citizen children would be deprived of their right to an education in United States schools and to social assistance. Respondents
The BIA denied the motion to reopen. First, the motion was not timely filed, as respondents had not served it on the proper official within the specified 60 days. Second, discretionary relief was unwarranted, since the additional facts — seven years' continuous physical presence and an additional child — were available only because respondents had delayed departure by frivolous appeals. Third, respondent husband's conduct in returning to the country only two months after his 1974 departure, respondents' payment to a professional smuggler to enter this country illegally, and respondent husband's refusal to depart voluntarily after promising to do so, all evinced a blatant disregard for the immigration laws, disentitling respondents to the favorable exercise of discretion.
The Court of Appeals reversed and directed the BIA to reopen the proceeding. Rios-Pineda v. United States Department of Justice, 720 F.2d 529 (CA8 1983). The motion to reopen, the panel concluded, was timely filed,
We granted certiorari, 469 U.S. 1071 (1984), because this case involves important issues bearing on the scope of the Attorney General's discretion in acting on motions to reopen civil requests for suspension of deportation.
Given the Attorney General's broad discretion in this context, we cannot agree with the Court of Appeals' holding that denial of the motion to reopen was an impermissible exercise of that 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 for two separate and quite adequate reasons.
First, although by the time the BIA denied the motion, respondents had been in this country for seven years, that was not the case when suspension of deportation was first denied;
The Court of Appeals though the appeal had not been frivolous because it had resulted in further proceedings. But this was true only because seven years of residence had accrued during the pendency of the appeal. No substance was found in any of the points raised on appeal, in and of themselves, and we agree with the BIA that they were without merit. The purpose of an appeal is to correct legal errors which occurred at the initial determination of deportability; it is not to permit an indefinite stalling of physical departure in the hope of eventually satisfying legal prerequisites. One illegally present in the United States who wishes to remain already has a substantial incentive to prolong litigation in order to delay physical deportation for as long as possible. See, e. g., Sung Ja Oum v. INS, 613 F.2d 51, 52-54 (CA4 1980); Hibbert v. INS, 554 F.2d 17, 19-21 (CA2 1977). The Attorney General can, in exercising his discretion, legitimately avoid creating a further incentive for stalling by refusing to reopen suspension proceedings for those who became eligible for such suspension only because of the passage of time while their meritless appeals dragged on. See Leblanc v. INS, 715 F.2d 685, 693 (CA1 1983); Agustin v. INS, 700 F.2d 564, 566 (CA9 1983); Balani v. INS, 669 F.2d 1157, 1160-1162 (CA6 1982); Der-Rong Chour v. INS, 578 F.2d 464, 467-468 (CA2 1978), cert. denied, 440 U.S. 980 (1979); Schieber v. INS, 171 U. S. App. D. C. 312, 320-321, 520 F.2d 44, 52-53 (1975).
The impact of any other rule is pointed out by this case. Respondents were apprehended in 1978, and they conceded deportability. Nonetheless, over six years later they remain in the United States by virtue of their baseless appeals. In administering this country's immigration laws, the Attorney General and the INS confront an onerous task even without
Second, we are sure that the Attorney General did not abuse his discretion in denying reopening based on respondents' flagrant violation of the federal law 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. The Court of Appeals' rejection of these considerations as "irrelevant" is unpersuasive. While all aliens illegally present in the United States have, in some way, violated the immigration laws, it is untenable to suggest that the Attorney General has no discretion to consider their individual conduct and distinguish among them on the basis of the flagrancy and nature of their violations. There is a difference in degree between one who enters the country legally, staying beyond the terms of a visa, and one who enters the country without inspection. Nor does everyone who illegally enters the country do so repeatedly and with the assistance of a professional smuggler. Furthermore, the Attorney General can certainly distinguish between those who, once apprehended, comply with the laws, and those who refuse to honor previous agreements to report for voluntary departure. Accordingly, we are convinced that the BIA did not abuse its discretion in denying reopening because of respondents' prior conduct.
This case, therefore, does not involve the unreasoned or arbitrary exercise of discretion. Here the BIA's explanation of its decision was grounded in legitimate concerns about the
JUSTICE POWELL took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.