Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Supreme Court delivers another blow to the Trump Administration with Gorsuch’s help

The Supreme Court on Tuesday invalidated a provision of federal law that requires the mandatory deportation of immigrants who have been convicted of some “crimes of violence,” holding that the law is unconstitutionally vague.

Justice Neil Gorsuch joined with the more liberal justices for the first time since joining the court to produce a 5-4 majority invalidating the federal statute. In doing so, Gorsuch was continuing the jurisprudence of Justice Antonin Scalia, who also sided with liberals when it came to the vagueness of statutes used to convict criminal defendants.

The case, Sessions v. Dimaya, had originated during the Obama administration but had been closely watched to see if the justices would reveal how they will consider the Trump administration’s overall push to both limit immigration and increase deportations.

James Garcia Dimaya, from the Philippines, was admitted to the United States in 1992 when he was 13 as a lawful permanent resident. In 2007 and 2009, he pleaded no contest to charges of residential burglary in California and in 2010, the Obama administration brought removal proceedings against him.

An immigration judge determined that Dimaya was removable from the US because of his two state court convictions. The court held that these qualified for an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which authorizes removal of non-citizens who have been convicted of some violent crimes and defines aggravated felony to include “crimes of violence.”

Tuesday’s ruling, which concerns lawful permanent residents, will not affect the Trump administration from continuing its efforts to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants, but it does signal that the courts will take a skeptical look at efforts seen as limiting due process rights.

“In the end, the court made the right decision in recognizing that, if it takes you more than three minutes to explain legally why someone committed a deportable offense, it is probably not fair to treat them as an aggravated felon with no possible avenue for relief from removal,” said Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney and former top immigration official at Obama’s Justice Department.