Friday, April 2, 2010

Supreme Court to Decide What Constitutes an "Aggravated Felony" Under Immigration Law

"High Court Considers Drug Deportation Case"
"The Supreme Court on Wednesday considered whether a longtime legal permanent resident can be deported to his native Mexico after pleading guilty to two minor drug offenses: possession of less than two ounces of marijuana and possession of one prescription Xanax pill.

"Congress has taken a hard line over the past 20 years on criminal aliens, particularly recidivist criminal aliens," said Nicole Saharsky, an assistant to the solicitor general.

The government argued that Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo's second conviction, involving the Xanax tablet, constitutes an 'aggravated felony' under immigration law, because he could have been charged with recidivist drug possession, a crime that's 'punishable as a felony' under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The Immigration and Nationality Act defines an aggravated felony to include any felony 'punishable' under the CSA.

"What controls is Congress' judgment," not the state's punishment, Saharsky said, urging the justices to uphold the 5th Circuit's ruling that Carachuri-Rosendo isn't eligible to stay in the United States...

But Washington lawyer Sri Srinivasan, arguing for Carachuri-Rosendo, said his client was never convicted as a recidivist at the state level, so his crimes can't constitute an aggravated felony. He argued that Carachuri-Rosendo should be allowed to seek relief from deportation "based on [his] connections and deep family ties to the country."

The Mexico native immigrated to the United States as a child and later got engaged to a U.S. citizen, with whom he has four children, all U.S. citizens. He is a longtime legal permanent resident."

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Read the Oral Argument transcript:

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