FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 19, 2018

Contact:

Sejal Zota, (617) 227-9727, szota@nipnlg.org

Washington, D.C. – On Tuesday, April 17, 2018, in Sessions v. Dimaya, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision to stop the federal government from sweeping noncitizens unfairly into removal (deportation) proceedings under an enduring but constitutionally vague legal statute. That statute, known as 18 U.S.C. §16(b), according to the Court, fails to meet the minimum test for fairness and due process under the law, and was therefore struck down. Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote.

For decades, the U.S. government has shifted the playing field for noncitizens in removal proceedings by invoking this amorphous and speculative statute, which was often applied unpredictably and unevenly to expand the general category of “crime of violence”. The Court ruled that the 16(b) provision was “void for vagueness” and therefore, unconstitutional.  As a result, Mr. Dimaya, a legal permanent U.S. resident for nearly 25 years, along with countless other legal permanent residents like him, will finally have a fair day in court.

“This decision at long last strikes down a flawed statute that has resulted in untold numbers of immigrants being detained, removed from their communities and families, and deported, in violation of their due process rights”
—Sejal Zota, NIPNLG

“This decision at long last strikes down a flawed statute that has resulted in untold numbers of immigrants being detained, removed from their communities and families, and deported, in violation of their due process rights,” said Sejal Zota, legal director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG).  Zota argued the Dimaya case as amicus before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2015, and presented the “void for vagueness” argument in her statements to the Court.

Echoing other Supreme Court decisions involving immigrant removal, Justice Kagan referenced the “grave nature of deportation” and the harsh nature of the “aggravated felony” ground, which overwhelmingly results in automatic, mandatory removal and detention of noncitizens. In her decision, she quoted from the amicus brief authored by Zota in December, 2016, highlighting several circuit splits due to wildly differing interpretations of 16(b). The brief was authored on behalf of IDP, NIJC, and AILA

“We are relieved the Court has put an end to the government’s attempts to use an intrinsically flawed statute to deport immigrants and separate families,”
—Dan Kesselbrenner, NIPNLG

“We are relieved the Court has put an end to the government’s attempts to use an intrinsically flawed statute to deport immigrants and separate families,” said Dan Kesselbrenner, Executive Director of NIPNLG, who, with Zota, works on issues at the intersection of immigration and criminal law. “Today the Court has validated what NIPNLG has been saying for decades,” he added.

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Download the Practice Advisory »
Sample Statutory Motion to Reconsider and Terminate Removal Proceedings in Light of Sessions v. Dimaya »