Trump’s Supreme Court pick gives surprise vote in immigration case

President Donald Trump's nominee Neil Gorsuch became a justice on the US Supreme Court in April 2017

Washington (AFP) – Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch cast a surprise vote in a decision released Tuesday favoring an immigrant fighting deportation, siding with the US Supreme Court’s left-leaning wing.

Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s only appointee to the top US court, joined in a 5-4 ruling stating that the legal definition of a crime of violence — which was being used to deport Philippine-born James Garcia Dimaya — was too vague.

According to federal law, immigrants convicted of crimes of violence are to be deported.

Dimaya, who had been convicted of burglary in California, challenged his deportation on the grounds that his offense was not severe enough to be considered a violent crime.

The ruling is a setback for the Trump administration’s hardline immigration policies.

The staunchly conservative Gorsuch, who cast the deciding vote, has sat on the nation’s top bench for just over a year.

Trump often refers to Gorsuch as the justice who will stand up for the values cherished by his core supporters including gun rights and opposition to abortion.