SEPTEMBER 27, 2006
A federal law that calls for the deportation of immigrants who have been convicted of felonies is being challenged in various states and the Supreme Court has agreed to hear three of the cases this session.
Intended to facilitate the government’s expulsion of immigrants who commit crimes, the Immigration and Nationality Act clearly states that any immigrant, including U.S. residents, convicted of an “aggravated felony” in the United States must be sent to their native country regardless of how long they have lived in the U.S.
There are thousands of immigrants – 8,000 in the western United States alone– awaiting deportation for theft offenses and three of them have become high-profile cases that could help determine the outcome of many others.
The first two, involving Mexican nationals, will be argued next week and the third, involving a man from Peru, around the first week of December. The first two cases are similar since they involve pair of Mexican men – one in Texas and the other in South Dakota – convicted of drug possession. Should they be deported to their native country as U.S. law dictates?
The Peruvian man was convicted in California Superior Court of burglary in 1992, possession of a firearm by a felon in 1994 and in 2002 he pleaded guilty to auto theft and was sentenced to three years in prison. This career criminal’s attorneys argue whether a theft offense, which is an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act, includes aiding and abetting.
This is only the beginning of such cases making their way through the courts since immigrant advocates are preparing to argue in hundreds of similar cases that some provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act are illegal because they impose deportation as an extra penalty. They claim that it creates a discriminatory system in which criminals who are immigrants get harsher treatment than others who commit the same crimes.
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