Supreme Court Allows Deportation of Immigrants with Green Cards for Certain Felonies
In a landmark 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that immigrants with legal permanent residence, commonly known as green card holders, can be deported if they are convicted of certain felonies, such as obstruction of justice.
Majority Opinion and Dissenting Views
The decision, drafted by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, received favorable votes from Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett, and Chief Justice John Roberts. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote a separate opinion concurring with the ruling. However, Justice Sonia Sotomayor presented the only dissenting opinion, which was supported by Justice Neil Gorsuch and partially by Justice Elena Kagan.
Implications of the Decision
This ruling grants the federal government the authority to deport Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) convicted of serious crimes, even if they have been living in the country for years and have established families.
Crimes Justifying Deportation
The justices stated that convictions related to covering up after the fact and discouraging victims from reporting sexual misconduct are considered serious enough to make individuals eligible for deportation.
Legal Arguments and Court’s Interpretation
During the oral hearing, lawyers argued that obstruction of justice required an ongoing investigation. However, Justice Kavanaugh, in the lead opinion, disagreed and stated that individuals can impede the justice process even without a pending investigation or prosecution. He provided an example of a murderer threatening a witness, emphasizing that such acts are obstructive regardless of the government’s awareness or involvement.
The Lamb and Pugin Cases
The Supreme Court’s ruling was a response to the consolidated cases of Fernando Cordero García and Jean Francois Pugin, both legal permanent residents (LPRs) facing deportation orders. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that Cordero-García’s state conviction for dissuading a witness did not constitute obstruction of justice, while the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals found Pugin’s conviction for aiding and abetting after the fact to be an offense related to obstruction of justice.
Understanding the Deportation of Legal Residents
The case that led to this ruling involved two individuals: Jean Francois Pugin, a Mauritian citizen who obtained permanent residence in 1985, and Fernando Cordero-García, a Mexican who received legal permanent residence in 1965. Pugin was convicted in Virginia for being an accessory to a felony related to obstruction of justice, while Cordero-García was convicted in California for various crimes, including dissuading a witness from reporting a crime.
Department of Homeland Security’s Argument
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sought the deportation of both individuals based on their felony convictions. Immigration judges and the Board of Appeals for the 4th and 9th Circuits ruled in favor of DHS. After a lengthy appeals process, the Supreme Court upheld Pugin’s deportation and remanded Cordero-García’s case to a district court for further review.
Definition of Aggravated Felony
The justices highlighted that federal law mandates the deportation of noncitizens convicted of federal or state crimes classified as “felonies.” Congress expanded the definition of “serious crime” in 1996 to include offenses related to obstruction of justice.
Judge Sotomayor’s Dissenting Opinion
Judge Sotomayor disagreed with the majority’s interpretation of obstruction of justice. She argued that interfering with an ongoing investigation or proceeding is the essence of an obstruction of justice offense, as supported by historical American law, dictionaries, and federal and state obstruction statutes. Sotomayor criticized the court for deviating from this understanding and undermining the intent of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Pugin pleaded guilty to being an accessory to a felony and received a prison sentence. Due to his aggravated felony conviction, the US government initiated removal proceedings against him. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit affirmed that Pugin’s conviction qualified as an offense related to obstruction of justice.
Bill Seeks Deportation of Green Card Holders Convicted of Assaulting Officers or Firefighters
The Supreme Court has ruled that immigrants with legal permanent residence, or green cards, can be deported if they are convicted of certain felonies, including obstruction of justice. The decision, made in a 6-3 vote, grants the federal government the authority to deport Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) convicted of serious crimes, even if they have been living in the country for years and have established families. The court’s interpretation of obstruction of justice includes convictions related to covering up after the fact and discouraging victims from reporting sexual misconduct. The ruling was in response to the cases of two green card holders facing deportation orders, with one court determining the conviction to be related to obstruction of justice and the other concluding that it did not. This decision has significant implications for legal residents who may face deportation for certain felony convictions.
What types of felony convictions related to obstruction of justice can result in legal permanent residents being deported from the United States?
There are several types of felony convictions related to obstruction of justice that can potentially result in legal permanent residents being deported from the United States. Some examples include:
1. Perjury: Making false statements under oath, such as lying in court, during a deposition, or in an official document.
2. Tampering with Evidence: Altering, destroying, or concealing evidence with the intention of obstructing an official investigation or court proceeding.
3. Witness Tampering: Intimidating, threatening, or misleading a witness to prevent them from providing information or testifying truthfully.
4. Obstruction of Justice: Engaging in any act or scheme to hinder, delay, or otherwise obstruct the due administration of justice.
5. Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice: Collaborating with one or more persons to plan or execute an obstruction of justice offense.
It should be noted that whether a legal permanent resident will be deported or not is determined on a case-by-case basis and depends on various factors, including the specific circumstances of the conviction, the individual’s immigration status, and any previous criminal history. Legal permanent residents should consult with an immigration attorney to understand and discuss the potential immigration consequences of any criminal conviction.