In a shocking move on Tuesday, President Donald Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, stabbed the president in the back. Justice Gorsuch sided with the liberal justices on the court, delivering a severe blow to the president’s policy on enforcing immigration laws.
In a 5—4 decision, Justice Gorsuch voted along with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan, siding with an immigrant who was convicted of residential burglary and set to be deported, Politico reported. The dissenting votes came from the conservative side of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy.
Justice Gorsuch agreed with the liberals that the law that allowed for the deportation of immigrants who have been convicted of “a crime of violence” was too vague and therefore unconstitutional. The decision is one that is likely to infuriate President Donald Trump, who is tough on immigration and appointed Justice Gorsuch to the court.
“Vague laws invite arbitrary power. Before the Revolution, the crime of treason in English law was so capaciously construed that the mere expression of disfavored opinions could invite transportation or death. The founders cited the crown’s abuse of ‘pretended’ crimes like this as one of their reasons for revolution,” Gorsuch wrote in his concurring opinion.
“Today’s vague laws may not be as invidious, but they can invite the exercise of arbitrary power all the same — by leaving the people in the dark about what the law demands and allowing prosecutors and courts to make it up,” he continued.
“The law before us today is such a law. Before holding a lawful permanent resident alien like James Dimaya subject to removal for having committed a crime, the Immigration and Nationality Act requires a judge to determine that the ordinary case of the alien’s crime of conviction involves a substantial risk that physical force may be used. But what does that mean?” Gorsuch asked.
“Just take the crime at issue in this case, California burglary, which applies to everyone from armed home intruders to door-to-door salesmen peddling shady products. How, on that vast spectrum, is anyone supposed to locate the ordinary case and say whether it includes a substantial risk of physical force? The truth is, no one knows. The law’s silence leaves judges to their intuitions and the people to their fate. In my judgment, the Constitution demands more,” he wrote.
Justice Gorsuch’s opinion, which does not seem to be in line with President Trump, does bear a striking resemblance to a decision made by the man he has replaced on the court, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. That case was cited by Justice Kagan who wrote in the opinion that the 2015 case that struck down a similar clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act provided guidance for Tuesday’s decision. Justice Kagan said that the 2015 decision “tells us how to resolve this case.”
The case decided on Tuesday involved a legal immigrant, identified as James Dimaya, who came to the United States from the Philippines in 1992 when he was 13-years-old. Dimaya pleaded no contest to two charges of burglary in California and deportation proceedings had been started by the government. The government said that he could be deported because his crimes could be considered “crimes of violence” that allowed him to be sent back to the Philippines.
“If the severity of the consequences counts when deciding the standard of review, shouldn’t we also take account of the fact that today’s civil laws regularly impose penalties far more severe than those found in many criminal statutes? Ours is a world filled with more and more civil laws bearing more and more extravagant punishments,” Justice Gorsuch said.
The decision by Justice Gorsuch angered conservatives on Twitter who called him a traitor.
It does seem rather disappointing that he would side with the liberal justices. Let’s hope that the issue was the vague language of the law and that this is not an indication of things to come. We hired Donald Trump based on his agenda, which included cleaning up our immigration problem. In turn, he nominated Gorsuch, believing he supported the conservative, America First agenda. This ruling leaves many in doubt when it comes to Gorsuch’s values.