The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that a federal statute requiring the deportation of certain non-citizen immigrants who have committed felonies is unconstitutional.
In a 5–4 vote—conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with his more liberal colleagues—the court upheld a lower court’s 2015 decision, which ruled that the provision in Immigration and Nationality Act was unclear as to what constituted a “crime of violence.” That vague language, the Supreme Court said, could lead to “more unpredictability and arbitrariness than the Due Process Clause tolerates.”
As Gorsuch wrote in the court’s opinion:
The implacable fact is that this isn’t your everyday ambiguous statute. It leaves the people to guess about what the law demands—and leaves judges to make it up.
Tuesday’s ruling comes in response to the case of James Garcia Dimaya, a legal immigrant from the Philippines who was convicted of burglary—a conviction which, the court explained, exposed the ambiguity of what constituted a “crime of violence.”
The court’s decision is likely to cause problems within the Trump administration, which has advocated mandatory deportations as a consequence for immigrants convicted of crimes.