Gorsuch Rejects Deportation Mandate for Legal Immigrant Convict

Gorsuch Rejects Deportation Mandate for Legal Immigrant Convict

President Trump's Supreme Court pick has largely sided with the conservative members of the bench since his appointment, but sided with the liberal wing on Tuesday.

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch's latest vote is confusing his conservative fans.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday erected new bars to deporting legal immigrants for crimes they've committed here in the US, saying the part of law that set the level of criminal behavior deserving removal is too vague.

Dimaya, originally from the Phillippines, was admitted to the United States in 1992 as a lawful permanent resident. After he pleaded no contest to two charges of burglary in California, the government began deportation proceedings against him.

In court, arguing for the Trump administration, Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler said that when it comes to deportation, "I think it is important for the court to understand that immigration provisions and grounds for deportation are often written in very broad and general terms and given content by the executive branch in which Congress has vested authority". In this case, President Barack Obama's administration took the same position in the Supreme Court in defense of the challenged provision.

Justice Elena Kagan praised the ruling in her official opinion on the case, saying a conviction of a loosely-defined "violent crime" would result in the "virtual certainty" of deportation. "The truth is, no one knows", Gorsuch said in his concurring opinion.

The case turned on a decision from 2015 that struck down a similarly worded part of another federal law that imposes longer prison sentences on repeat criminals.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2015 that the definition as applied to legal immigrants was so vague that it violated their rights to due process of law under the U.S. Constitution.

The decision does not interfere with the government's ability to deport people who are convicted of clearly violent crimes, including murder and rape, as well as drug trafficking and other serious offenses.

Only eight justices heard the case last term after Scalia's death, and in late June, the court announced it would re-hear arguments this term, presumably so that Gorsuch could break some kind of a tie.