The Supreme Court has given President Donald Trump a victory in his efforts to deport immigrants who have committed crimes.
The 5-4 ruling Thursday upheld a lower court decision in which a legal permanent resident facing deportation for his crimes was not allowed to evade deportation under a U.S. law that lets some longtime legal residents avoid being deported, according to Reuters.
That law gives green card holders a chance to stay in the U.S. if they have been living here for at least seven years.
However, the law also provides that if a noncitizen has committed crimes within his or her first seven years of residence in the U.S., something called a “stop time” provision kicks in that then renders the person ineligible to claim protection under the law.
In its reporting, Reuters said the major impact of the ruling could be on other legal immigrants who commit crimes that could then render them eligible for deportation.
The case involved Andre Martello Barton, 42, a noncitizen from Jamaica who was convicted of drug and gun crimes in Georgia and faced deportation.
The ruling was supported by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who wrote the majority opinion, as well as Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch. It was opposed by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
“Barton’s aggravated assault offenses were crimes involving moral turpitude,” which would have rendered him inadmissible to the U.S., the ruling said.
“He committed the offenses during his initial seven years of residence and was later convicted of the offenses, thereby rendering him ‘inadmissible.’ Barton was, therefore, ineligible for cancellation of removal,” it said.
The ruling noted the logic in the law.
“If a crime is serious enough to deny admission to a noncitizen, the crime can also be serious enough to preclude cancellation of removal, at least if committed during the initial seven years of residence,” Kavanaugh wrote in the majority opinion.
“Removal of a lawful permanent resident from the United States is a wrenching process, especially in light of the consequences for family members. Removal is particularly difficult when it involves someone such as Barton who has spent most of his life in the United States.
“Congress made a choice, however, to authorize removal of noncitizens — even lawful permanent residents — who have committed certain serious crimes. And Congress also made a choice to categorically preclude cancellation of removal for noncitizens who have substantial criminal records. Congress may of course amend the law at any time. In the meantime, the Court is constrained to apply the law as enacted by Congress.”
In her dissent, Sotomayor wrote, “At bottom, the Court’s interpretation is at odds with the express words of the statute, with the statute’s overall structure, and with pertinent canons of statutory construction. It is also at odds with common sense.”
She said the court ruling failed to give preference that is due noncitizens who are in the U.S. legally.
“Because of the Court’s opinion today, noncitizens who were already admitted to the country are treated, for the purposes of the stop-time rule, identically to those who were not — despite Congress’ express references to inadmissibility and deportability,” Sotomayor wrote.
“The result is that, under the Court’s interpretation, an immigration judge may not even consider whether Barton is entitled to cancellation of removal — because of an offense that Congress deemed too trivial to allow for Barton’s removal in the first instance,” she said.
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