Freedom Folks

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The "New Americans?"

Source: scotusblog
The Supreme Court ruled, by an 8-1 vote on Tuesday, that conviction of a drug crime that is a felony under state law but only a misdemeanor under federal law is not kind the kind of offense that triggers potential deporation. Justice David H. Souter wrote the opinion for the Court in Lopez v. Gonzales (05-547). Justice Clarence Thomas dissented. The case turned on the Court's interpretation of federal law that makes deportation a penalty for drug trafficking. It does not affect deportation powers under other laws criminalizing drug crimes.

The ruling cleared up a conflict among federal appeals courts. Four had ruled that a felony under state law that is only a misdemeanor under federal law is not a drug trafficking crime under the Controlled Substances Act. Two others had disagreed. Federal immigration law provides for deportation for anyone convicted of a crime that is a "felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act." The Court ruled that "a state offense comes within [that phrase] only if it proscribes conduct punishable as a felony under" the Controlled Substances Act.

The decision came in the case of Jose Antonio Lopez, a native of Mexico. He entereed the U.S. illegally in 1985 or 1986, but became a lawful permanent resident in 1990. In 1997, he was charged in state court in South Dakota with one count of possessing cocaine and one count of a conspiracy to distribute the drug. He ultimately pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting possession by another person.

Under state law, his crime was a felony, leading to a potential prison sentence of up to five years. He was sentenced to the maximum, but actually served only 15 months. Federal officials moved to deport him to Mexico, based upon the conviction for what they considered to be an "aggravated felony." Under federal law, however, the crime could only be punished as a misdemeanor.

A conviction for an aggravated felony under immigration law can lead to deportation, or may bar other relief, such as cancellation of a deportation ordere.

Justice Souter's opinion said that under federal law, mere possession is not a form of "illicit trafficking" in drugs, because that "connotes some sort of commercial dealing."
Lovely, obviously I think they got this exactly wrong especially as I think jaywalking should be a deportable offense. Those who choose to come to this country should be held to a high standard. I don't think it's too much to ask they not be drug dealers, and taken in that context it feels like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic to debate just exactly how many drugs you can deal before being removed.

Here's a thought, how about none!

Oh, and of course..."The Deportation Joke"

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