• January 2019
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Supreme Court Ruling on Immigration Softens Deportation Laws

The Trump Administration has undoubtedly emphasized tightening immigration laws and increasing deportation for certain situations. However, there appears to be a silver lining as far as what the Supreme Court deems as constitutional deportation laws. This week, a Supreme Court ruling on immigration invalidated a federal law that indicated that deportation should occur for “crimes of violence.” In a 5-4 ruling that included conservative justice Neil Gorsuch, the judges ruled that the terminology was too vague to be constitutional.


Sessions v. Dimaya

The Court’s ruling on immigration centers on a case that originated during the Obama Era. Sessions v. Dimaya is a case in which a legal immigrant from the Philippines, James Garcia Dimaya, was issued to be deported because of two burglary charges. Dimaya had pled no contest to the 2007 and 2009 charges.


Under The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an immigrant can be deported if they are convicted of a violent crime.  However, Dimaya’s crimes – car burglary – did not inherently include acts of violence and the term “violent crime” wasn’t clearly defined. The majority opinion uses a principal known as “vagueness doctrine” wherein an law that is too ambiguous becomes unenforceable.


The Supreme Court’s decision indicates that people cannot be removed from the country unless there are clear reasons and due process, and that the laws underpinning that process must be as explicit as possible to ensure they are enforced uniformly around the country.


Effects on the Trump Immigration Crackdown

Though it sets a strong precedent, the short-term effects of this ruling will likely be minimal.  There are already many violent crimes specifically cited in the INA that trigger automatic deportation, and it’s unlikely this new decision will apply to a significant amount of current deportation proceedings or extend to the many other levers involved in the Trump immigration crackdown.


It does, though, put greater onus on the State during deportation proceedings.  In the long run, this decision could be an essential piece of legislation for other immigrants to cite in future cases. The hope is that people will have more protections and that new laws will be more concise and provide adequate constitutional protections.


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