Monday, June 14, 2010

Supreme Court Rules On Aggravated Felony For Immigration Purposes

The United States Supreme Court today issued a ruling on a case involving what is considered an aggravated felony for immigration deportation purposes.  Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo was convicted in state court of simple drug possession of a single Xanax pill a year after he had received 20 days in jail for possessing 2 ounces of marijuana.  The state prosecutor had the option to charge him with an aggravated felony because if was his second case, but chose not to.  The federal government sought to have him removed from the country because he had committed an aggravated felony on the basis that it was his second conviction which amounted to a serious, or aggravated felony.  Carachuri-Rosendo argued that he had not been convicted of an aggravated felony.  The Supreme Court held that the immigration court cannot enhance the state judgment by substituting its judgment over that of the state court.  Since there was no finding of recidivism by the state court, the immigration court cannot add their judgment to that of the state court.

The impact of this decision is that a second conviction does not automatically make someone eligible for deportation.  The federal government had argued that since a second conviction for a minor drug offense would be considered an aggravated felony under federal law, immigrants convicted of a second minor drug offense in state court would be subject to automatic deportations.  That is no longer the case and thousands of immigrants who fall under the same set of facts can now petition the immigration judge for leniency.  Before this decision, deportation was automatic and they could not seek leniency.  Carachuri-Rosendo, who was well over 30 years old, has been in the United States legally since he was 5 years old.  His common law wife, mother, sister and 4 children are all U.S. citizens.  Carachuri-Rosendo had actually been deported to Mexico.

The case is Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, 09-60.

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