Divided Supreme Court Delivers Win for Trump

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court’s decision that an immigrant with lawful permanent resident status cannot fight deportation due to a previous offense, even though that crime was not grounds for his removal.

In a 5-4 ruling with conservative justices on one side and liberals on the other, the court ruled for the Trump administration in holding that the statute in question, as drafted by Congress, requires deportation in the case of Andre Barton, even though the assault offenses that prevent him from appealing were not enough to deport him in the first place.

“Removal of a lawful permanent resident from the United States is a wrenching process, especially in light of the consequences for family members,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the court’s opinion. “Removal is particularly difficult when it involves someone such as Barton who has spent most of his life in the United States. Congress made a choice, however, to authorize removal of noncitizens— even lawful permanent residents—who have committed certain serious crimes. And Congress also made a choice to categorically preclude cancellation of removal for noncitizens who have substantial criminal records. Congress may of course amend the law at any time. In the meantime, the Court is constrained to apply the law as enacted by Congress.”

The controversy deals with an immigration law that allows defendants to apply for cancelation of deportation, but only if they satisfy certain requirements, including not having committed a particular offense within their first seven years of continuous residence in the U.S. This limitation, known as the “stop-time rule,” refers to offenses that render individuals inadmissible or deportable. Barton, who is being deported for drug and firearms offenses, had committed aggravated assault offenses during that seven-year period, but those offenses did not qualify for deportation.

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