In a surprising turn of events, a Supreme Court’s ruling allowed James Garcia Dimaya, an immigrant living in California, to remain in the United States. The surprise was the deciding judge: Trump’s only Supreme Court appointee, Neil Gorsuch.
He cast the deciding vote in a Supreme Court that usually has a conservative edge. However, Gorsuch sided with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer giving the case a 5-4 against deporting Dimaya.
Dimaya, who has been convicted of two first-degree burglary charges, was supposed to be deported due to the Immigrant and Nationality Act which states that constitutes deportation after a crime of violence. He was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident at the age of 13 in 1992.
However, some of the Justices argued that a “crime of violence” is too vague, and thus can not be used to deport Dimaya.
In particular, Gorsuch found that the law’s vagueness invites arbitrary abuse of power. Citing the treason laws of the Revolutionary War, he said: “The founders cited the crown’s abuse of ‘pretended’ crimes like this as one of their reasons for revolution.”
“Today’s vague laws may not be as invidious, but they can invite the exercise of arbitrary power all the same — by leaving the people in the dark about what the law demands and allowing prosecutors and courts to make it up. The law before us today is such a law.”
“On the other hand,” he said the INA provision, “asks about ‘risk’ alone, a familiar concept of everyday life. It, therefore, calls for a commonsense inquiry that does not compel a court to venture beyond the offense elements to consider contingent and remote possibilities.”
Justice Elena Kagan, who appointed by President Obama in 2010, cited a similar Supreme Court decision from 2015 that found the language “violent felony” too vague to invoke the Armed Career Criminal Act.
Referring back to the Immigrant and Nationality Act, she said the law “requires a court to picture the kind of conduct that the crime involves in ‘the ordinary case,’ and to judge whether that abstraction’ presents some not-well-specified-yet-sufficiently large degree of risk.”
Vague language, especially in a case that could have a man deported, invites“more unpredictability and arbitrariness than the Due Process Clause tolerates,” Kagan said.
Dimaya’s attorney, Josh Rosenkranz, praised the court’s decision as one that provides immigrants equal protection under the law.
“The Supreme Court delivered a resounding message today: You can’t banish a person from his home and family without clear lines, announced up front,” he said.
H/T: The Hill