A Judicial Loss In The Fight Against Deportation

The Supreme Court has just further complicated the lives of many immigrants, putting them at a disadvantage in the fight against deportation. Tuesday’s 5-to-3 ruling placed the burden of proof on undocumented immigrants seeking to challenge deportation orders.

The ruling came in the case of Clemente Pereida, who used a fake Social Security card to get a job as a janitor. He pled no contest to the crime of “attempted impersonation” and was fined. The courts ruled Pereida’s action a crime of “moral turpitude.” The conviction led the Department of Homeland Security to issue a deportation order. Pereida appealed to the US Attorney General, but the crime’s categorization as that of “moral turpitude” made it legally impossible for the Attorney General to cancel the order of removal. Clemente Pereida then turned to the Supreme Court, where he was shut down by the five conservative judges.

The decision against Pereida has important implications. The ruling places many immigrants at a disadvantage in deportation legal battles, especially those unable to afford counsel. Stanford law professor Lucas Guttentag has expressed concern that the ruling will make it easier for immigrants to be deported for relatively small crimes. Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the dissenting opinion, believed the majority’s decision “risks hinging noncitizen’s eligibility for relief from removal on the varied charging practices of state prosecutors.” Furthermore, it discourages many immigrants from seeking justice through the highest judicial authority in the country. The conservative bias of the court is apparent in the ruling, and it is a bias that threatens the rights of immigrants.