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Supreme Court ruling sets limits on deportable crimes

If you're convicted of a crime in the U.S., you'll likely face jail time. However, if you're a non-U.S. citizen convicted of that same crime, you could be sent back to your home country.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) is a piece of federal legislation which states that immigrants convicted of certain classes of serious crimes can be deported. In a previous post, we discussed deportable offenses for non-citizen residents in the United States--which include serious crimes such as human trafficking, rape and murder. The federal government's stance on these offenses has not changed.

However, this week the U.S. Supreme Court made a pivotal ruling in the case of Sessions v. Dimaya, which poses a defining question: Should the defendant--an immigrant convicted of two home burglaries--be deported? Under the INA, the crime could only result in deportation if it is considered a "crime of violence." But the definition of this term is nebulous--described broadly as a crime which either involves force or where there is a significant risk that force could have been used.

Historically, courts across the U.S. have had conflicting views on what types of offenses are considered crimes of violence. Some courts have found trespassing, burglary and evading arrest to meet the definition; others have not.

In this week's decision, the Court found that the defendant's crimes did not satisfy the definition of crimes of violence, and he was therefore spared from deportation. The ruling has meaningful implications on future cases. It could set a standard for immigrants facing similar charges to avoid deportation.

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