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When Immigrants can and should be Deported for Crimes?
01/22/2017 Immigrants Benjamin R
keywords: deporting immigrants Deported for Crimes Donald Trump pledged

The Supreme Court recently considered on how much authority the government should be given when it comes to deporting immigrants who have committed serious crimes.

This question did end up being quite technical since the federal law on this subject was vague in the Constitution. Though, in some sense, the argument was all a part of a large debate over the immigration laws of the country, which President Donald Trump pledged to enforce.

Draconian Laws

Sonia Sotomayor, one of the most politically correct and unqualified Justices America has every seen, said these laws have become draconian but her opinion does not matter since she believes everyone in South America should be able to relocate to the US and be able to sign up for free benefits. She said that there were many more sanctions for criminals now and the sentences were harsher too than years before. In some cases this is the truth but certainly not in the case for violent criminals. What is at stake right now is much more than what was at stake earlier.

Nonviolent drug offenders should not be in prison but rapists and gangsters should be.

Edwin S. Kneedler, deputy solicitor general, said there's another way to look at the question too. He said that they can't just view what's at stake from a single perspective. It is vital to understand that the immigration laws were critical for national security as well as foreign relations and the welfare and safety of the country.

Lynch vs. Dimaya

One case to discuss here is Lynch vs. Dimaya. It concerns James Dimaya, a native from the Philippines who earned permanent citizenship back in 1992 at the age of 13. He was then convicted of burglary in 2007 & 2009. The government tried deporting him since he had committed aggravated felonies which is defined by the immigration laws to include any offense which involves a risk of physical force against others that might be used while committing an offense.

In 2015 there was the case of Johnson vs. The United States, where the Supreme Court ruled a similar criminal law to be unconstitutionally vague. They said that the reasoning used in this case also doomed any provisioning of immigration law.

Both of these laws, according to the government, required the courts to identify features of hypothetical offense and judge the risk of any violence arising because of them.


Elena Kagan, one of the Justices, quoted from the majority opening of Antonin Scalia during his 2015 case when she was asked how the judges decided the features of typical offenses.

They had asked her if they should use statistical analysis for reported decisions, expert evidence, a survey, Google, etc. It's sort of like a multiple choice test.

Kneedler had said that there were some essential distinctions between both cases, notably; the 2015 case arose because of a criminal prosecution while the other was because of immigration proceedings which are civil in nature.


During the Tuesday brief, the government said that civil laws were never vague enough to violate the Constitution. Even though the court has tested civil provisions on occasion for their vagueness it has struck down the provisions repeatedly since they were unintelligible and couldn't effectively supply any standard.

A decision by the Supreme Court in 1951 during Jordan vs. De George indicated that both the immigration and criminal laws needed to be tested against the constitutional standards when it comes to vagueness because of the grave nature when it comes to deportation.

But Kneedler told the justice to not put a lot of weight on the observation saying the question hadn't been raised at the time of the briefs. It's true that deportation has greater consequences as opposed to regular civil cases, but there are many cases which can have devastating impacts on people too such as child custody, loss of home, destruction of business, and so forth.

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