Supreme Court strikes down part of immigration law

Erika Holt
April 17, 2018

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 court issued the ruling at a time of intense focus on immigration issues in the United States as Trump seeks to increase deportations of immigrants who have committed crimes, though it was former President Barack Obama's administration that sought to deport Dimaya.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the 20015 decision "tells us how to resolve this case".

The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down part of a federal statute requiring the mandatory deportations of immigrants convicted of violent crimes.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Presidential Donald Trump nominated previous year, joined with the court's four liberal justices in invalidating the statute.

The case involved James Garcia Dimaya, a lawful immigrant to the United States from the Philippines. The court initially heard arguments in January 2017 when it was one justice short, but decided last June after Gorsuch brought the court to full strength to have the case re-argued, putting the new justice in a position to cast the deciding vote. In 2007 and 2009, he pleaded no contest to charges of residential burglary in California.

Supreme Court strikes down part of immigration law
Supreme Court strikes down part of immigration law

The 5-to-4 decision could limit the government's ability to deport those with criminal records, something that President Donald Trump has identified as a priority.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Dimaya's favor. "Congress can not write a mushy standard that leaves it to unaccountable immigration officials and judges to make it up as they go along", said Josh Rosenkranz, an attorney for Dimaya. Roberts said the ruling will have significant ramifications because the same "crime of violence" definition is used in numerous other laws, including using or carrying firearms during a violent crime, and could call into question convictions under them.

The law, she wrote, "produces more unpredictability and arbitrariness than the Due Process Clause tolerates". The 5-4 ruling handed the Trump administration a loss on a signature issue.

But after the Johnson decision, lawyers for those slated for deportation challenged a catchall provision of the immigration law. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Tuesday. "The appellate court found that both provisions denied fair notice to defendants and failed to make clear when a risk of violence could be considered substantial".

The court took particular note of the fact that under the statute, cases concerning "crimes of violence" wouldn't be eligible for discretion, meaning a judge or officials couldn't even decide in special cases to make an exception.

Also, given President Trump signed the CLOUD Act, the court also officially vacated the major USA v. Microsoft case dealing with whether email stored in servers overseas could be compelled to be turned over to law enforcement.

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