The Supreme Court issued a ruling on Monday which could make it more difficult for an immigrant to defend himself against a charge of unlawful entry, even though he was wrongly sent out of the country more than 20 years ago based on a DUI conviction. The ruling will be especially important in California where the 9th Circuit Court based in San Francisco had allowed immigrants to win a reprieve from a federal judge if their deportation order was “fundamentally unfair.” The Supreme Court essentially overruled that on Monday and said federal judges are usually not authorized to take up such complaints.
Federal law calls for deporting noncitizens who are convicted of an “aggravated felony” that is a “crime of violence.” But in 2004, the high court ruled that a DUI is not a crime of violence because it involves negligence rather than an intent to do harm. However, that decision will not spare the man involved in this particular case, Refugio Palomar-Santiago, from being prosecuted for an unlawful reentry. He is a 62-year-old Mexican national who is married and has two children. He was granted permanent resident status in the United States in 1990. But the next year, he was convicted of DUI, which led to his deportation in 1998. He returned to this country at some point and was living without authorization in 2017 when he was taken into custody. He was indicted on an unlawful reentry charge, a crime that would result in him being deporting again. Despite winning his case before the 9th Circuit who ruled that his deportation was “fundamentally unfair”, he lost in a 9-0 ruling before the Supreme Court on Monday.