Supreme Court rejects deportation mandate for criminal migrants

United States Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday erected new bars to deporting legal immigrants for crimes they've committed here in the US, saying the part of law that set the level of criminal behavior deserving removal is too vague.

The court said the part of the law in question is too vague to be enforced.

The decision is a loss for President Donald Trump's administration, which has emphasized stricter enforcement of immigration law. 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. In delivering the court's ruling, Justice Elena Kagan cited a 2015 ruling written by Scalia that struck down a clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act as unconstitutionally vague. In a case considering the deportation of an immigrant convicted of a felony, Gorsuch sided with the liberal justices in deciding to allow him to stay in the United States. And it comes amid an ongoing focus on immigration by Trump.

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. The INA definition of aggravated felony includes a "crime of violence, ' which is any offense that involves the use or substantial risk of physical force against another person or property.The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) subsequently initiated deportation proceedings against Dimaya and claimed that his burglary convictions constituted crimes of violence under the Act".

The federal government appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the U.S. Congress had reasonably identified a category of crimes that carry the risk of violence, and suggested that the justices should defer to the immigration authorities.

Only eight justices heard the case last term after Scalia's death, and in late June, the court announced it would re-hear arguments this term, presumably so that Gorsuch could break some kind of a tie.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on October 2, the first day of its current nine-month term.

Deadlocked 4-4, the justices scheduled a new round of arguments once Gorsuch joined the court.

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