US Supreme Court Reviews Deportations Due to Conviction of a Crime
The US Supreme recently reviewed a case involving the deportation of a legal immigrant due to conviction of a crime.
In an opinion, released January 17, 2007, the Court analyzed which crimes may be cited in deporting a legal immigrant.
Duenas-Alverez: Permanent Resident Alien
Duenas-Alverez was convicted under California’s vehicle code of aiding and abetting the theft of an automobile. A Federal Immigration Judge found Duenas-Alverez to be “removable” or eligible for deportation.
After appeals by both Duenas-Alverez and the Federal Government, the US Supreme Court reviewed the matter.
The Immigration and Nationality Act lists a number of crimes for which a legal alien can be deported. Among these is conviction of a “theft-offense.”
The question before the Court was whether aiding and abetting a theft is a theft-offense under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The Court held that it is.
Under the California vehicle code any person who takes a vehicle without the consent of the owner, or any person “who is a party or an accessory to or accomplice in” the taking of the vehicle is guilty of auto theft. Duenas-Alverez argued that because the law allows for the conviction of an accomplice, it is too broad to be considered a theft-offense.
A conviction under a law that is broader than just a theft-offense cannot be use to deport a legal alien.
Duenas-Alverez claimed that an accomplice, someone who helps the principle thief before, during, or after the fact, but who has not actually committed any theft himself, could be convicted under the California vehicle code. Because the law applies to more offenses than just theft, it is too broad to be used to justify deporting a legal alien.
The Court Disagrees
The Court began its opinion by reminding the parties that every State and the Federal Government have eliminated the distinction between a principle in the theft and an accomplice before or during the act. The Court then pointed out that California law finds any person guilty of not only the crime he intended to commit, but any crime that “naturally and probably” results from his intended crime.
For example, in People v. Nguyen, the defendant was convicted, not only of several robberies at houses of prostitution, but also for aiding and abetting a sexual assault used by one of the robbers to convince a proprietor to give up her property.
The Court held that aiding and abetting, as defined by the California vehicle code, is a theft-offense, allowing for the deportation of anyone found guilty under the law. The Court prefers to take laws in their most obvious and generic terms.
It appears that the Court will not allow a technical definition of a statute to stand in the way of deporting a convicted criminal.