Tills Visa Law

Stephen K. Tills, Attorney at LAW

Supreme Court voids deportation based on Aggravated Felony ground “Crime of Violence”, but effect on deportation proceedings may not be significant.

In Dimaya v. Sessions,  ( https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/15-1498_1b8e.pdf)

The Supreme Court found that the category of aggravated felony “crime of violence” was too vague to be enforceable.  The Court found that deciding whether State criminal statutes qualified as a “crime of violence“,  and therefore an aggravated felony, was too difficult because of the vagueness of the term and resulted in inconsistent results.

The “Aggravated Felony” ground of deportation is the most punishing of all deportation grounds, and results in few if any avenues for available relief from deportation.  In most cases a conviction for a “crime of violence” results in a lengthy criminal jail sentence, followed by a DHS detainer, and then a period of mandatory detention for the alien, until the deportation proceedings are completed.  For “green card” holders, it usually results in automatic loss of that status and immediate deportation from the U.S..

Crime of Violence” is only one of many aggravated felony grounds of deportation, and encompasses a broad sweep of potential activities,  weapons, and mental states. It also includes only those crimes for which the alien received a sentence of at least one year of imprisonment.  Other aggravated felony grounds are more specifically tied to particular crimes such as weapons trafficking,  drug trafficking,  human trafficking,  murder, rape, and other individualized serious criminal convictions. Often serious criminal convictions qualify as more than one aggravated felony ground, such as certain weapon offenses.

This decision actually is a continuation of Federal Courts striking down ambiguous criminal definitions used as a basis for deportation.  The separate ground of “Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude” (CIMT) is undergoing Court scrutiny, though it is not an aggravated felony ground. (The Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided that New York Petit Larceny convictions could not categorically be considered CIMTs) It usually takes conviction of two or more CIMTs to cause an alien to be deportable.  In fact, with the “Crime of Violence” ground quashed by the Supreme Court, many of those same offenses will be charged as CIMTs if they don’t fit within another aggravated felony ground.


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