Ever since you were a little kid, you’ve believed fervently in the American dream. Your only ambition growing up was to move to the United States and live in a free, democratic country. When you were 18, you achieved that dream. You landed a scholarship at an American university, and you were able to start living your life the way you’d always imagined. After college, you found a good job and were able to stay. You met the love of your life, got married and had a child.
But then one day, everything changed. The police showed up at your door, accusing you of a burglary you didn’t commit. Not only is your freedom in jeopardy, but if you’re convicted, you could be sent back to your home country–separated from your family.
This is the law according to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the INA, if a non-citizen resident carries out certain categories of crimes, they can face deportation–a devastating prospect for many immigrants and their families. The INA has resulted in the deportation of thousands of immigrants since it was first passed in 1965.
Certain series crimes–e.g., rape, murder, acts of terrorism–result in deportation without question. But there is another, vaguer category described in the legislation as “crimes of violence,” which are federally defined as crimes where force was used–or there was considerable risk that force would be used.
The interpretation of what constitutes a “crime of violence” has been varied across U.S. courts. For certain crimes–such as burglary, trespassing and evading arrest–some courts have ruled that these do meet this definition, while others have ruled the opposite.
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important ruling with regard to this question. In the case of Sessions v. Dimaya, the court found that the defendant–an immigrant who had been convicted of two non-violent home burglaries–should not be deported under the INA.
The ruling sets a significant precedent for similar cases in the future, potentially creating a path for immigrants with certain criminal convictions to avoid deportation.