Supreme Court Decision Restores a Sense of Fairness to Criminal Immigration Proceedings

Prior to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, many legal U.S. residents who had committed minor misdemeanors were unfairly classified as having committed "aggravated felonies" under immigration law, which subjected them to automatic deportation. The Supreme Court took note of the unfair deprivation of due process and took a strong stance in support of human rights when it corrected the deportation requirement for minor drug offenses.

The controversy over Mr. Carachuri-Rosendo's case stems from the government's increasingly broad application of "aggravated felony" charges that lead to mandatory deportation for noncitizens without the opportunity to contest the order. Because there was no official limit to the government's application of the "aggravated felony" charge, and due to disparities in how courts interpreted its definition, legal residents were often deprived a chance to defend themselves against automatic deportation because their offenses were, often incorrectly, labeled "aggravated felonies."

There's more...

Supreme Court Decision Restores a Sense of Fairness to Criminal Immigration Proceedings

Prior to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, many legal U.S. residents who had committed minor misdemeanors were unfairly classified as having committed "aggravated felonies" under immigration law, which subjected them to automatic deportation. The Supreme Court took note of the unfair deprivation of due process and took a strong stance in support of human rights when it corrected the deportation requirement for minor drug offenses.

The controversy over Mr. Carachuri-Rosendo's case stems from the government's increasingly broad application of "aggravated felony" charges that lead to mandatory deportation for noncitizens without the opportunity to contest the order. Because there was no official limit to the government's application of the "aggravated felony" charge, and due to disparities in how courts interpreted its definition, legal residents were often deprived a chance to defend themselves against automatic deportation because their offenses were, often incorrectly, labeled "aggravated felonies."

There's more...

Supreme Court Decision Restores a Sense of Fairness to Criminal Immigration Proceedings

Prior to the Supreme Court's recent decision in Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, many legal U.S. residents who had committed minor misdemeanors were unfairly classified as having committed "aggravated felonies" under immigration law, which subjected them to automatic deportation. The Supreme Court took note of the unfair deprivation of due process and took a strong stance in support of human rights when it corrected the deportation requirement for minor drug offenses.

The controversy over Mr. Carachuri-Rosendo's case stems from the government's increasingly broad application of "aggravated felony" charges that lead to mandatory deportation for noncitizens without the opportunity to contest the order. Because there was no official limit to the government's application of the "aggravated felony" charge, and due to disparities in how courts interpreted its definition, legal residents were often deprived a chance to defend themselves against automatic deportation because their offenses were, often incorrectly, labeled "aggravated felonies."

There's more...

US Refusal To Investigate Torture Lets Other Countries Do It For Us

 

The Supreme Court's refusal this week to hear the claims of Maher Arar, a Canadian sent to Syria to be interrogated under torture in 2002, is appropriately being condemned as another example of the U.S. avoiding any legal or moral responsibility for government- sanctioned torture.

What seems to shock and outrage people about the Arar case in particular is that the facts are not in dispute. Canada, whose security services were complicit in his rendition to Syria, has publicly acknowledged its responsibility, compensated Arar,and launched a criminal investigation of U.S. and Syrian officials. The United States, on the other hand, has still neither admitted its role nor held any U.S. officials accountable. And, it hasn't paid Arar a dime.

The United States' refusal to acknowledge its role in the torture of terrorism suspects even when faced with overwhelming evidence of U.S. involvement has become an unfortunate pattern. But it's heartening to see that other countries aren't dropping the matter.

On Monday, the European Court of Human Rights announced that it would hear the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen seized by Macedonian authorities at the request of the United States. El-Masri was beaten and abused during interrogations in both Macedonia and the notorious "Salt Pit" in Afghanistan. Authorities unceremoniously dumped him on a roadside in Albania without charging him with any wrongdoing.His case against U.S. officials was dismissed by a federal court on the grounds that it would reveal "state secrets." The Bush and Obama Administrations have both invoked State Secrets to stop the disclosure of evidence that may reveal government misconduct.

And last year, an Italian court convicted 21 alleged CIA operatives and a US air force operator for their role in the kidnapping and rendition to Egypt of Abu Omar, a Muslim cleric who was already under surveillance by Italian authorities, who suspected him of having ties to al Qaeda. Omar claims he was held incommunicado and tortured in an Egyptian prison for seven months. He was eventually released without charge.

The Obama administration has repeatedly insisted that it wants to look forward, not backward, and so has refused to examine the role of senior U.S. officials in the torture of terrorism suspects. In adopting that position, the government is reneging on its obligations under the Convention Against Torture, which demands both that torturers be held accountable and that victims receive remedies.

Until the U.S. lives up to those responsibilities, its past practices and officers will continue to be scrutinized by foreign governments and justice systems. Those verdicts will cast judgment not only on the past administration's conduct, however. To the extent that foreign governments have to intervene to bring justice to victims of U.S. policies, they will reveal the extent of the United States' current respect for the rule of law as well.

 

Landmark Supreme Court ruling gives due process to immigrants facing detention

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Martin Escobar was a lawful permanent resident who had lived in the United States for 30 years. He lived in Chicago, working for a tree care company and supporting his wife, four children and grandchildren, putting them through school and college. In the 1990’s, he plead guilty to two drug possession convictions, but never served any time in jail for these minor misdemeanors. 8 years later, an immigration judge ordered him deported on the basis on these convictions. Their family has been divided since then as Escobar and his wife left for Mexico, leaving their children behind in the U.S.

Due to immigration laws laid down in 1996, Escobar’s very minor drug offenses amounted to an “aggravated felony,” forcing the judge to deport him without being able to consider the individual circumstances of the case. Under harsh immigration laws passed in 1996, a whole range of convictions constitute “aggravated felonies” which trigger automatic deportation, but as in Escobar’s case, many of these convictions are neither aggravated nor felonies. Worse, the laws eliminated important legal rights that previously enabled an immigration judge to look at individual circumstances of each case, including the type of convictions, their history and family ties and how long ago the conviction occurred, thereby denying due process and fairness to hundreds and thousands of people deported for life for convictions ranging from shoplifting to possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In a landmark decision this Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that immigrants who are here legally in the United States cannot be automatically deported for minor drug offenses, and therefore can have an immigration judge look at their circumstances before being sentenced to permanent exile. The ruling comes in response to Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo’s case, a permanent resident of the United States who had lived here since he was 5. In 2004, Jose faced mandatory deportation for carrying a single Xanax tablet without prescription. Although it was a minor offense, being his second one, it counted as an “aggravated felony” and caused him to face deportation.

Writing about his case, Justice Stevens wrote-

(a) 10-day sentence for the unauthorized possession of a trivial amount of a prescription drug is at odds with the ordinary meaning of aggravated felony…Carachuri-Rosendo, and others in his position, may now seek cancellation of removal and thereby avoid the harsh consequence of mandatory removal. (But) any relief he may obtain depends upon the discretion of the attorney general.

Speaking about the ruling, Chuck Roth, director of litigation for Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) said-

The Supreme Court’s decision is a commonsense interpretation of the law that protects fundamental fairness for immigrants. All drug offenses subject a person to potential deportation, but this decision gives our clients a chance to fight their cases, to prove that they are rehabilitated and that their presence here is a net benefit to the country and to their families.

This ruling will impact the lives of many legal residents like Escobar, who have been labeled as “aggravated felons” and separated from their lives and families for minor offenses. It is a positive step toward fixing our country’s unfair immigration laws, and reinforces the importance of a fair day in court. Tearing families apart by deporting people who are not threats to our communities is deeply unfair and this ruling remedies this to some extent.

Speaking from Morelos, Mexico, about 100 miles south of Mexico City, Martin Escobar told Deportation Nation that “It would make me happy if I could return to Chicago. All my family is in the United States. They were born there, and now the only person who is here is myself.”

The Carachuri-Rosendo case is the most recent in a number of challenges to the harsh 1996 amendments and given that the rate of deportations is at its highest ever, it goes some way in restoring some degree of due process and fairness to the system.

Photo courtesy of immigrationimpact.com

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