JANUARY 18, 2007
An appellate court ruling that blocked a federal law calling for the deportation of thousands of immigrants convicted of felonies has been unanimously reversed by the Supreme Court.
The case involves a Peruvian man convicted in California of burglary in 1992, possession of a firearm by a felon in 1994 and auto theft in 2002. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, created to rid the nation of criminal immigrants, federal authorities Initiated deportation proceedings upon completion of a three-year prison sentence for the last crime.
The man, Luis Duenas-Alvarez, is a U.S. resident but the 1996 law clearly says 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.
The nation’s most liberal appellate court, the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, sided with the career criminal saying that his conviction did not quality as an aggravated felony under immigration law because it was not clear if he intended to steal the car. Furthermore, the 9th Circuit found, California law on vehicle thefts is too broad since it applies to all participants in a theft and not just the actual thief.
More than “legal imagination” is required for that argument to prevail, according to the Supreme Court’s 18-page decision. It also says that California’s law is not special and that “one who aids or abets a theft falls, like the principal, within the scope” of auto theft laws.
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