For immigrants who are living in the United States, deportation is an ever-present fear. With anti-immigration sentiment seeming to grow stronger every day, many immigrants are concerned for their futures. The current administration has made numerous changes to immigration policy that makes it easier than ever for U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to arrest, detain and deport foreign nationals.
But a new ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could more difficult to deport certain immigrants. On Tuesday, the court ruled that the State of California could not deport an immigrant who had committed a burglary because his crime was not an aggravated felony. The ruling will set an important precedent for deporting immigrants who have committed felonies.
Federal immigration and felonies
Under federal law, it is possible to deport immigrants who have committed aggravated felonies such as homicide, sexual assault and other violent crimes. But state and federal courts frequently disagree on which crimes constitute aggravated felonies. The case that the Supreme Court heard this week centered on just such a disagreement.
The case concerned a man from the Philippines who had committed two burglaries in California. A California judge ruled that the man could be deported under federal law because his crime carried a “substantial risk” of using “physical force.” The Supreme Court struck down this ruling in a 5-4 vote, dramatically limiting the breadth of crimes that can qualify immigrants for deportation.
Immigrants who commit crimes have rights
The decision is a major coup for immigrants, immigration activists and criminal-rights advocates. It means that from now on, it will be much more difficult to deport immigrants who have been convicted of certain felonies. It is important to remember that immigrants have legal rights under U.S. law, even if they have committed crimes. Any immigrant who has been charged with a felony or has been convicted of a felony deserves legal protection.