Supreme Court Makes Major Decision on Deportation Provision

April 17, 2018Apr 17, 2018

The Supreme Court decided on Tuesday that a federal law making it easier to deport immigrants might be too vague to be enforced. The law in question makes it easier for authorities to deport immigrants who are guilty of committing crimes. 

According to Fox News, the court's 5-4 decision relates to a provision of immigration law that defines a violent crime. Immigrants who commit a crime of violence are subject to deportation and it usually speeds up the process. But many legal experts believe that the law is unconstitutional. 

A federal appeals court in San Fransisco had previously struck down the provision as too vague — a legal opinion that the Supreme Court apparently agrees with. The appeals court based its ruling on a 2015 Supreme Court decision that struck down a law that was worded in a similar way, which was intended to impose larger prison sentences on repeat criminals. Supreme Court justices believe that the 2015 decision helped provide insight in dealing with this most recent case.

This is seen as a loss for President Donald Trump who, along with former President Barack Obama, had defended the provision in question. 

Fox reports that the case in question involves James Dimaya, a native of the Philippines, who came to the United States as a teenager in 1992. James pleaded guilty to two charges of burglary in California, which urged the government to begin deportation proceedings against him. The government claimed demanded his removal because it qualified as a crime of violence under federal immigration law. 

The case was initially argued in January 2017. The Supreme Court hit a deadlock, with four claiming it was constitutional and another four claiming it wasn't. President Trump's Neil Gorsuch parted with the president who appointed him and claimed that the law was, in fact, unconstitutional, siding with those justices who claimed the clause was too vague. 

USA Today implies that President Trump may have been expecting Gorsuch to claim the law was constitutional, especially since the divide on the court had previously been along ideological lines, with conservative justices backing the government and liberals siding with the immigrant facing removal from the country. 

During oral arguments, reports claim that Gorsuch wondered how the court would define a crime of violence if the Congress did not. 

The 2015 ruling which this case builds upon was written by former Justice Scalia, who wrote the majority 8-1 decision declaring a key section of a criminal law targeting armed violence to be too vague. The clause had allowed past convictions to be treated as violent felonies if the person caused "potential risk of physical injury to another." 

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