According to Business Insider, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch provided the tie-breaking vote over to the liberal wing of the court on Tuesday in a case that ruled part of a federal law making it easier to deport immigrants who have been convicted of crimes too vague to be enforced. The decision is a loss for the Trump administration.
“The court’s 5-4 decision — an unusual alignment in which new Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the four liberal justices — concerns a catchall provision of immigration law that defines what makes a crime violent,” reports BI. “Conviction for a crime of violence makes deportation ‘a virtual certainty’ for an immigrant, no matter how long he has lived in the United States, Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her opinion for the court.”
Business Insider provided more details on this particular case:
Tuesday’s decision involves James Dimaya, a native of the Philippines who came to the United States legally as a 13-year-old in 1992. After he pleaded no contest to two charges of burglary in California, the government began deportation proceedings against him. The government argued among other things that he could be removed from the country because his convictions qualified as crimes of violence that allowed his removal under immigration law.
Immigration officials relied on a section of immigration law that lists crimes that make people eligible for deportation. The category in which Dimaya’s convictions fell is a crime “that, by its very nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force … may be used in the course of committing the offense.”
Immigration judges would have allowed Dimaya to be deported, but the federal appeals court in San Francisco struck down the provision as unconstitutionally vague. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Tuesday.
Gorsuch did not align completely with Kagan’s majority opinion, though he agreed the law was too vague to stand on its own.
“No one should be surprised that the Constitution looks unkindly on any law so vague that reasonable people cannot understand its terms and judges do not know where to begin in applying it,” Gorsuch wrote in his opinion.
Justice Antonin Scalia, the man whom Gorsuch replaced, wrote the majority opinion for a similar case in 2015 that struck down part of another federal imposing longer prison sentences to repeat criminals. Kagan cited the 2015 decision as the best indicator on “how to resolve this case.”