After a lengthy battle in the Supreme Court in Sessions vs. Dimaya, the deportation law in place for immigrants convicted of violent felonies was discarded for being “unconstitutionally vague”. The case was originally brought to the Supreme Court in January of 2017, right after the death of Justice Scalia. The vacancy in the Court left the ruling deadlocked 4-4. After Justice Gorsuch joined the court, the case re-opened in October of 2017. On Tuesday, Justice Gorsuch became the deciding vote, leading to the end of this unclear law.
The original case follows James Dimaya from the Philippines, who came to the United States in 1992 as a lawful resident at 13 years old. After committing residential burglaries in 2007 and 2009, Dimaya was to be deported for committing “aggravated felonies”. This began a discussion of which offenses were to be considered a part of this category, as it varied between courts and judges. Since deportation is no small punishment, the law was called into question for its vagueness, which left immigrants vulnerable to the whims of the courts and “arbitrary power” as worded by Gorsuch.
Although Justice Gorsuch was appointed by the Trump administration, and voted conservatively on a previous immigration case in the Supreme Court, his swing left in this case is not entirely surprising. Gorsuch champions himself as an advocate of due process, which can sometimes swing in favor of conservative rulings and sometimes in favor of liberal ones, in this case, the latter.
VERDICT: This ruling is a huge win for immigration activists, as it will save perhaps thousands of immigrants from deportation. The law in question was too vague to persist, as its lack of standardization created a lack of proper justice. It will be interesting to see whether or not a new law will come to replace this one in coming months.