In yet another 5-4 decision that saw the conservative majority stick together, the SCOTUS has made it easier to deport immigrants for crimes.
Dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the decision “at odds with common sense.”
Yahoo reports the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday made it easier for federal authorities to deport certain immigrants who have committed crimes in a victory for President Donald Trump’s administration.
The court ruled 5-4, with the conservative justices in the majority, to uphold a lower court decision that found a legal permanent resident from Jamaica named Andre Martello Barton ineligible to have his deportation canceled under a U.S. law that lets some longtime legal residents avoid expulsion.
Barton was targeted for deportation after criminal convictions in Georgia for drug and gun crimes.
The decision could affect thousands of immigrants with criminal convictions – many for minor offenses – who reside legally in the United States.
The Trump administration argued against Barton’s bid to avoid removal. Trump’s hardline stance on both legal and illegal immigration has been a key feature of his presidency and his 2020 re-election campaign. He has justified his immigration crackdown in part by citing crimes committed by immigrants.
Permanent residents selected for deportation may apply to have their removal canceled if they have been living continuously in the United States for at least seven years, except if they have committed certain serious felonies.
At issue in the case was the meaning of a 1996 change – known as the “stop-time rule” – in U.S. immigration law. This provision disqualifies immigrants who commit certain crimes from this discretionary benefit by stopping the clock on their period of continuous residency.
The federal government had said the rule was triggered in Barton’s case because his assault charge would bar his admission into the country, even though as of 1996 he had resided in the United States too long to be declared deportable for that crime.
Barton argued that he could not be found inadmissible because he had already been lawfully admitted.
Noting that deporting a permanent resident is a “wrenching process,” conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the majority on Thursday, disagreed.
“Removal is particularly difficult when it involves someone such as Barton who has spent most of his life in the United States,” wrote Kavanaugh, appointed to the court by Trump in 2018. “Congress made a choice, however, to authorize removal of noncitizens – even lawful permanent residents – who have committed certain serious crimes.”
In a dissent, liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the ruling “at odds with common sense.” Sotomayor noted that the immigration judge who heard Barton’s case said she would have preferred to grant Barton’s bid to avoid deportation, noting that he had rehabilitated and that his four children were all U.S. citizens.