April 17 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court nixed a provision of federal law Tuesday that requires immigrants who’ve been convicted of crimes to be deported.
The case, Sessions v. Dimaya, saw Justice Neil Gorsuch — President Donald Trump’s appointment to the high court — cast the deciding vote, as he sided with the panel’s more liberal justices.
The ruling was a victory for James Garcia Dimaya, whose two burglary convictions were considered violent crimes under a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act — which lists being convicted of “a crime of violence” as one of the types of aggravated felony convictions that can trigger an immigrant’s deportation.
Dimaya, originally from the Phillippines, was admitted to the United States in 1992 as a lawful permanent resident.
In 2007 and 2009, he pleaded no contest to charges of residential burglary in California, and an immigration judge determined that Dimaya should be deported because of his two state court convictions.
The government argued that Dimaya could be removed from the country because his convictions qualified as crimes of violence.
The law, although covering crimes that include actual violence, attempted violence or a threat of violence, goes on to add in crimes that involve “a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another.”
Tuesday’s ruling said the law subjecting immigrants to deportation was unconstitutionally vague.
“How, on that vast spectrum, is anyone supposed to locate the ordinary case and say whether it includes a substantial risk of physical force? The truth is, no one knows,” Gorsuch said in his concurring opinion.
“The law’s silence leaves judges to their intuitions and the people to their fate. In my judgment, the Constitution demands more.”
The case was carried over from the high court’s 2016 term, when the justices were deadlocked at a 4-4 vote following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch continued the jurisprudence of Scalia, who’d also sided with liberals when it came to the vagueness of statutes used to convict criminal defendants.