The Supreme Court quashed a law on Tuesday that would authorize the government to arbitrarily deport immigrants found guilty of serious crimes, stating that it was too unconstitutionally vague. The ruling is yet another setback to the Trump administration’s efforts to deport immigrants convicted of certain crimes.
The ruling is significant because Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, who usually leans conservative, unexpectedly joined the four liberal justices in the high court, forming a simple majority with a 5-4 vote. Justice Gorsuch, explaining his vote, claimed that the law was simply unconstitutional.
“Vague laws invite arbitrary power,” he wrote in agreement.
Gorsuch, however, had previously voted with the Court’s conservative majority in another immigration case in February, blocking bond hearings to immigrants held in detention. Still, his vote did not come as a total surprise, as he hasa track record of criticizing unconstitutionally vague laws that fail to provide a sufficient explanation to the people affected of what they specifically prohibit.
The case in question is Sessions v. Dimaya, No. 15-1498, which involves James Dimaya, who immigrated from the Philippines and became a lawful permanent resident in 1992. In 2007 and 2009, she was convicted of residential burglary. Her case was first argued in the High Court in January 2017 but resulted in a deadlock, 4 to 4, after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
According to immigrant rights groups, the ruling could potentially protect thousands of immigrants from immediate deportation.
According to Dimaya’s attorney, E. Joshua Rosenkranz, the decision has tremendous repercussions for immigrants, thousands of whom have been deported without due process all because of a flawed law that applies to a wide range of criminal and immigration cases.
Immigration enforcement officials, on the other hand, were not too pleased with the outcome of the case.
Tyler Q. Houlton, speaking on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, claims that the ruling would undercut their efforts to remove aliens convicted of certain violent crimes, such as kidnapping, burglary, and sexual assault from the United States.
He added that preventing the federal government’s ability to remove known criminal aliens allows the United States to be a haven for criminals, make the general public vulnerable to criminal acts.
Justice Elena Kagan defended the decision, writing that “The most exacting vagueness standard should apply in removal cases.”
The ruling comes at a time of increased litigation over the federal government’s increased crackdown on both undocumented and legal immigrants. If you, or a loved one, are concerned about this development and what it means for your rights, don’t hesitate to schedule a consultation with the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Contact our offices to schedule a consultation with Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.