James Garcia Dimaya spent his young adult life in this part of California, Hayward, just across San Francisco Bay.
He moved here in 1992 as a permanent resident.
26 years later, Dimaya’s legal victory is forcing politicians and judges to review this country’s immigration laws.
“Do you think the Dimaya decision will cause a surge of motion filings in immigration courts and how and what impact will that have if there is going to be a surge?” said John Cornyn, Republican U.S. Senator of Texas.
The Senate Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on Wednesday to examine the immigration court system.
One day after the supreme court ruled in favor of Dimaya.
Dimaya was ordered to be deported after serving four years in prison for two burglary convictions, one for robbing a garage and the other an empty house.
Under California law, burglary is a crime of violence.
Under a clause in immigration law, non-citizens convicted of violent crimes can be deported.
After years of legal proceedings, on a 5 to 4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that violent felony as defined for removal provisions was unconstitutionally vague.
“This decision has significant ramifications not only in the criminal sentencing context but also in the immigration context.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump-appointed judge, was the swing vote.
He said the way the law is written allows prosecutors and courts to make it up.
In an audio recording of the case arguments last October, just released yesterday, you get a glimpse of the careful consideration of the law’s interpretation that is affecting thousands of immigrants.
“The standard was laid out by this court in Hoffman Estates. The seriousness of the crime, how serious a penalty is or how the consequence is,” said Joshua Rosenkranz, Dimaya’s lawyer.
“The consequences in civil matters can be very grave. Forfeiture. Take a man’s home. His entire livelihood. Deport him. Graver than any other. The line between civil and criminal depends upon on a seven-part balancing test,” said Gorsuch. “So, what am I supposed to do with that.”
This new ruling does not mean non-citizens convicted of actual or attempted violent crimes would not get deported. It just limits the types of crimes that can prompt deportation.