And Neil Gorsuch - deliver blow to Trump's deportation law

Clay Curtis
April 18, 2018

Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Presidential Donald Trump nominated past year, joined with the court's four liberal justices in invalidating the statute.

The Supreme Court said April 17, 2018, that part of a federal law that makes it easier to deport immigrants who have been convicted of crimes is too vague to be enforced.

During oral argument on the first day of the 2017 term in October, Gorsuch wondered how the court could define a crime of violence if Congress did not.

Still, Tuesday's decision is a blow to the Trump administration, which has actively pursued an immigration crackdown with a heavy emphasis on deportations.

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 decision came in Sessions v. Diyama, a case that was carried over from last term when the justices were deadlocked 4 to 4 on how to resolve the matter.

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The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Dimaya's favor. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Tuesday. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch joined with the more liberal justices to strike the provision.

The ruling helps clarify the criminal acts for which legal immigrants may be expelled at a time of intense focus on immigration issues in the United States as Trump seeks to increase deportations of immigrants who have committed crimes.

In its opinion today, the Court struck down that provision as unconstitutionally vague. "In my judgment, the Constitution demands more".

Tuesday's ruling - which concerns lawful permanent residents - won't affect the Trump administration from continuing its efforts to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants, but it does signal that the courts will take a skeptical look at efforts seen as limiting due process rights. The government argued among other things that he could be removed from the country because his convictions qualified as crimes of violence that allowed his removal under immigration law. It comes as President Donald Trump tries to step up deportations.

But if that never-confirmed split was along ideological lines - with conservative justices backing the government and liberals siding with the immigrant facing mandatory removal - Gorsuch's addition turned out to be counterproductive.

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