You may have heard stories about immigrants who face deportation after a minor traffic ticket or other encounter with police. This is because criminal convictions have been a justification for officials to deport residents without permanent citizenship status.
However, the Supreme Court recently declared that one of the deportation-related laws is unconstitutional. As Justice Neil Gorsuch writes, the rule could “invite arbitrary power,” meaning that officials could bend the rule how they wish to threaten deportation.
What was the rule?
Before this decision, federal law allowed officials to deport immigrants who received a conviction for a “crime of violence.” This includes crimes in which a person uses force, such as shooting or otherwise harming another person. However, it also counted crimes in which a person may have used violent force – even if they didn’t actually use force against someone.
Why did the court find it unconstitutional?
According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, this law was simply too unclear. An immigrant would not clearly know which actions could be a crime of violence; the possibility of using force is not easy to figure out.
If a visa-holding immigrant stole an unattended laptop from a cafe, for example, the act could potentially earn the label of a violent crime regardless of whether they had a weapon or used force to obtain the laptop. As a result, they could face deportation without believing that their action was violent in nature at all.
Laws must give immigrants and citizens alike the ability to know the consequences of breaking the law. Without a clear idea about what makes an immigrant eligible for deportation, they do not have a fair chance to stay in the country.
What’s next for immigrants?
It’s possible that lawmakers could propose a similar rule with a better description of the types of crimes that make someone eligible for deportation. A new, well-written proposal could eventually become law. Because immigration policies are changing often, immigrants should stay informed of the current law to avoid the possibility of deportation as much as possible.
Regardless of prior violent criminal convictions, officials may try to deport an immigrant in Florida. In response, immigrants can fight to remain in the country. As this Supreme Court ruling shows, government officials cannot overstep the limits of their power.