Part of Deportation Law Unconstitutional

The federal immigration law allowing deportation of non-citizens convicted of a “crime of violence” is unconstitutionally vague and cannot be used to deport a Hayward man imprisoned for burglary.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision Monday, invalidated the Immigration and Nationality Act’s definition of a crime of violence, opening the potential of many more challenges to deportation orders.

The decision came in the case of James Garcia Dimaya, a native of the Philippines who has lived legally in the U.S. since 1992.  He was convicted of first-degree home burglary in 2007 and 2009 and served two years in prison.

Following his release, U.S. immigration authorities sought his deportation based on the burglaries being defined as crimes of violence for the potential of violence in home burglaries.

Dimaya has spent an additional five years jailed in immigration detention while the issue has been fought in the courts.

Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause requires that a criminal statute be sufficiently defined so an ordinary person can understand what conduct is prohibited and clear enough to discourage arbitrary enforcement. He was joined by Judge Kim Wardlaw.

He noted in most cases statutes pose no vagueness issues, but not so in this case.

Judge Connie Callahan dissented.

Case:  Dimaya v. Lynch, No. 11-71307



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