The Supreme Court on Tuesday erected new bars to deporting legal immigrants for crimes they've committed here in the USA, saying the part of law that set the level of criminal behavior deserving removal is too vague.
And in a blow to Donald Trump, the judge the president picked to join the court, Neil Gorsuch, who is known as an arch conservative, sided with the more liberal wing of the court in his decisive vote.
Michael Kagan of the University of Nevada Las Vegas, an expert on immigration law, notes that Dimaya's challenge began when President Barack Obama was still in office and that Tuesday's ruling is "another sign from the court that due process matters when it comes to deportation".
The case the court ruled in involves James Dimaya, a native of the Philippines who came to the United States legally as a 13-year-old in 1992. He lived in the San Francisco Bay area.
In 2007 and 2009, he pleaded no contest to charges of residential burglary in California, and an immigration judge determined that Dimaya should be deported because of his two state court convictions. In 2010, the Obama administration brought removal proceedings against Dimaya.
The category in which Dimaya's convictions fell is a crime 'that, by its very nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force.may be used in the course of committing the offense'. As a result, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the INA's crime of violence provision was unconstitutionally vague because it was largely similar to the violent felony provision in the ACCA that the Supreme Court struck down in Johnson. The language of the law could lead to arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement, that court said. The appeals court based its ruling on a 2015 Supreme Court decision that struck down a similarly worded part of another federal law that imposes longer prison sentences on repeat criminals.
The government argued that Dimaya could be removed from the country because his convictions qualified as crimes of violence.
Gorsuch joined the four liberal Supreme Court Justices in striking down the proposed guidelines; surprising political pundits and conservative lawmakers.
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