NPR logo Supreme Court: No Automatic Deportation For Minor Drug Offenses


Supreme Court: No Automatic Deportation For Minor Drug Offenses

The U.S.  Supreme court has ruled unanimously that a legal resident immigrant convicted of two minor drug possession offenses is not subject to automatic deportation. The decision could affect thousands of legal resident immigrants convicted of minor drug possession charges.

Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo came to the United States from Mexico with his parents 27 years ago at age five. He's been a lawful permanent resident of Texas ever since.

But in  2004 he served 20 days in jail for possession of two ounces of marijuana, and a year later he served another ten days after pleading no contest to possession of a single tablet of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.

After the second offense, the federal government moved to automatically deport him under the federal aggravated felony law. The government maintained that because he could have been convicted of drug trafficking under federal law for these two offenses, Carachuri-Rosendo was subject to automatic deportation.

But on Monday, the U.S.  Supreme Court rejected that argument, declaring unanimously that “could have” doesn't count in federal law as an aggravated felony conviction.

And since Carachuri-Rosendo was only convicted on state misdemeanor offenses, he may now have a chance to persuade an immigration judge that he has maintained a clean record for five years and that he should be permitted to stay with his American common-law wife and four American children.

Immigration lawyers were elated by Monday’s ruling. They said there are thousands of legal residents in the U.S. who have had minor tangles with the law and now have a chance to avoid deportation.