Monday, October 3, 2016

Filipino in the center of Supreme Court case

AMONG the cases the U.S. Supreme Court accepted to hear last week is a little known case  with potentially huge implication and whose central figure is a Filipino noncitizen convicted of a felony.

James Dimaya
The  central question this case asks: Is a federal law requiring the automatic deportation of noncitizens convicted of felonies involving a “substantial risk of violence” unconstitutionally vague?

The ruling will affect thousands of immigrants. Many are legal U.S. residents, like James Dimaya of Hayward, California who arrived in the U.S. from the Philippines as a child in 1992 and faces possible deportation in the case.

Dimaya was convicted of first-degree residential burglaries, of a home’s garage in 2007 and an uninhabited house in 2009, and was sentenced to two years in prison on each. The government then began deportation proceedings.

Dimaya, who challenged the order, spent nearly five more years behind bars before being released on bond in March 2015, his lawyers said. They said no one had been injured in either burglary.

At issue in the case -  
Lynch vs. Dimaya, 15-1498 - is a 1996 law that requires deportation for noncitizens, including legal residents, who are convicted of “aggravated felonies” — those involving a “substantial risk” that force “may be used” against another person or someone else’s property.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law did not define “substantial” risk or indicate which types of crime should lead to a convicted immigrant’s automatic removal from the US, the SF Chronicle reported.

The majority argued that a very low percentage of burglaries have led to violence and that the law requires immigration judges to speculate if a typical burglary creates a substantial risk of violence.

A dissenting appeals judge said anyone who plans a burglary “inherently contemplates the risk of using force” should the perpetrator be caught in the act.