Recently, the Supreme Court had a rather straight-forward, if not comical suggestion to the Obama administrations extreme reasoning on why it wanted to deport documented immigrants on drug charges.
Justices appeared tired of the recent series of cases they have reversed over the past 10 years; cases in which immigrants have been deported or threatened with deportation because of minor drug offenses.
Most recent, a defendant was convicted of possessing ‘drug paraphernalia.’ He had a sock concealing four tablets of Adderall – which is stimulant used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
The major increases in drug and gun sentences in the 1980s and ’90s played some role but only a modest one, most experts say, with soaring incarceration rates bringing diminishing returns while disproportionately hitting minorities.
Most of the justices seemed equally convinced that the government had gone too far in deporting Moones Mellouli, a Tunisian man who came to the USA on a student visa in 2004 and went on to earn two master’s degrees, as well as work as an actuary and teach mathematics at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Mellouli was deported under a federal law permitting the government to remove non-citizens ‘convicted of a violation of … any law or regulation of a state, the United States or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance.’ A first offense for a minor amount of marijuana is usually excused.
But then again, Kansas’s laws concerning drug paraphernalia covers drugs that are not on the federal schedule. If Mellouli had been in California, rather than Kansas, he may not have been convicted in the first place.
Much of the argument dealt with the literal and practical interpretations of laws wording. Does the drug have to be on the federal list? Is the Kansas list enough? Which matters more, the violation, or the conviction? Does ‘relating to’ refer to the violation or the law.
Congresses intention was for immigration officials to have a wide scope in terms of being able to remove noncitizens who violate drug laws, state or federal. But one official argued, ‘Is a sock considered drug paraphernalia under federal law?’ Others argued against it and in favor of Mellouli stating, “there would be a widespread variation in the deportability of people who have committed crimes involving federally controlled substances.”
In 3 cases the high court has overruled deportations on drug-related crimes:
- In 2006, the justices ruled that an immigrant’s drug possession crime could not be considered trafficking
- In 2010, they ruled that an immigrant could not be considered a recidivist for two unrelated misdemeanor
- In 2013, they ruled that an immigrant found with 1.3 grams of marijuana in his car could not be convicted for felony marijuana distribution if there was no evidence he was paid
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In the event that you find yourself in a serious situation involving drugs or deportation, the David Elden and Victor Sherman is here to help you fight the charges. Contact us today for a free consultation!