The Supreme Court of the United States on April 17, 2018 restricted deportation of immigrant felons by ruling that the US Immigration and Nationality Act requiring the deportation of immigrants convicted of certain crimes of violence is unconstitutionally vague.
The court invalidated the provision in a 5-4 ruling. The ruling came on a plea filed by convicted California burglar James Garcia Dimaya, a legal immigrant from the Philippines.
• The Supreme Court upheld a 2015 lower court ruling that the provision requiring Dimaya’s deportation created uncertainty over which crimes may be considered violent, risking arbitrary enforcement in violation of the US Constitution.
• The court’s ruling will not affect a number of serious crimes, including murder, rape, counterfeiting or terrorism offenses, which are specifically listed in the law as grounds for deportation.
• Hence, this could limit the impact of the ruling even though the government does not provide data on which crimes trigger the most number of deportations.
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The apex court’s ruling comes at a time when there is an intense focus on immigration issues in the United States, as Trump seeks to increase deportations of immigrants who have committed crimes.
However, in Dimaya’s case, it was former President Barack Obama’s administration that sought to deport him.
Dimaya had come to the United States from the Philippines as a legal permanent resident in 1992 at the age of 13. He lived in the San Francisco Bay area.
The US Federal authorities had ordered the deportation of Dimaya after he was convicted in two California home burglaries in 2007 and 2009. However, neither burglary involved violence.
In the federal criminal code, a ‘crime of violence’ includes offenses in which force either was used or carried a ‘substantial risk’ that it would be used.