Justices Hear Case on When Immigrants Can Be Deported For Crimes
President Trump’s recent rules on immigration have sparked controversy, protests, and litigation recently, only a few days after the Supreme Court considered how broad the government’s authority is in terms of deporting immigrants who have been convicted of “serious crimes.”
The question is ultimately part of a bigger picture concerning the administration’s definition of what they consider to be a “dangerous immigrant,” and, regardless of crimes committed, whether the government itself is acting lawfully in threatening deportation in many of these cases. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted, “today what’s at stake is a lot more than what was at stake decades over” because our criminal laws, in general, have only grown “increasingly draconian” with time.
The case itself concerns a man who became a lawful permanent resident in the United States as of 1992 (at the age of 13), and who was convicted of residential burglary in 2007 – 2009. The government sought to deport him by arguing that he was guilty of an “aggravated felony,” which immigration law defines to include “any offense that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”
Vague, Unconstitutional Laws
However, in 2015, both the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court ruled that a very similar criminal law was unconstitutionally vague and would effectively doom immigration law. These types of laws effectively ask judges to look at the offense committed and speculate as to whether the individual would be capable of committing a violent crime at some point in the future. Quoting from the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion, Justice Elena Kagan rightfully questions what the judges are supposed to rely on in making this call; statistical evidence? Expert testimony? Gut instinct?
To add another layer of complication: the government has applied this reasoning to cases that have arisen from both criminal prosecutions and civil actions, which is problematic. This most recent case arose from an immigration proceeding. This could arguably allow the government to deport someone who has already served their time years before, but who may be in court present day related to an immigration proceeding. This carries with it some serious civil rights concerns.
Civil Rights & Criminal Defense Attorney
Having immigrated to the United States does not constitute committing a crime. The current political climate has many concerned about the preservation of civil rights and the potential to face unconstitutional punishment that does not fit the crime.
If you are concerned about your rights being violated, contact criminal defense attorney Phillip J. Murphy today. Our law offices have been serving citizens throughout New York and New Jersey for more than 25 years. We’re here to help.