What is Gorsuch Anyway?

Juan Casas, Courier Staff

On April 17, 2018, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch did what the political world never saw coming, he ruled as a liberal.

During a court hearing on the case of Sessions vs .Dimaya, Justice Gorsuch ruled against his conservative counterparts and voted against anti-immigration policies. The issue at hand was whether a permanent resident can be considered for deportation for burglary. According to current immigration law, any resident can be considered for deportation if they are convicted of an aggravated felony. Gorsuch ruled that the current law was too vague for it to include burglary as an aggravated felony.

According to current law, an aggravated felony is described as a “crime of violence.” A crime of violence is any crime in where direct harm either did occur or could have occurred to a person or property. Conservative anti-immigration supporters have long argued that burglary along with drug trafficking is a crime of violence and that permanent residents can be considered for deportation if convicted. Whereas liberal immigration supporters argue that if no violence occurred during the burglary, then it is not a crime of violence and thus the permanent resident should not be considered for deportation. Both of these views have constantly come up during cases like the one of Sessions vs Dimaya and until Justice Gorsuch broke ranks; the norm has been relatively conservative.

Gorsuch ruled that the current immigration and nationality act (INA) law that describes an aggravated felony as a crime of violence, is too broad of a term for it to clearly include burglary. Both the immigration judge and the board of immigration appeals board ruled that burglary is considered under the Immigration and Nationality Act as a crime of violence and is thus a deportable offense. While the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was awaiting to rule on this case, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Johnson vs. United States that the definition of a “violent felony” in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) was too vague to be considered constitutional. So, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that the immigration and nationality act’s definition of a crime of violence was too close to the Armed Career Criminal Act’s definition of a violent felony and ruled it unconstitutional.

The case of Sessions vs Dimaya has since then gone up to the United States Supreme Court for a ruling and this past Tuesday in a surprising vote of five against and four in the affirmative, the earlier court’s ruling was overruled as unconstitutional. What was expected was a quick and drama free majority conservative ruling in the affirmative, that didn’t happen. At the very last minute, Justice Gorsuch shocked both conservatives and liberals alike when he broke ranks and joined the liberals to break the tie, thus successfully overruling the lower courts position.

The ruling was unprecedented seeing as only a few months ago Justice Gorsuch predictably voted with his conservative peers on another immigration Supreme Court case of Jennings vs. Rodriguez regarding whether an undocumented in detainment has a legal right to a bond hearing.

The Ninth Circuit Court inferred that the current immigration law due to constitutional concerns, inherently required the mandatory legal language to include a time limit on prolonged detainment of no more than six months for a bond hearing. Gorsuch along with his conservative peers overruled the lower court, stating that the current law shows no constitutional indication of a specific limit a detainee can be held without a bond hearing. In other words, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no inherent or even slight mention of any limit of six months for a bond hearing regarding undocumented immigrants in detainment.

Liberals and conservatives were awestruck by the sudden change of political perception of Justice Gorsuch. Liberals hailed it as a political blow to the Trump administration’s tough stance on immigration, while conservatives claim the ruling by Justice Gorsuch as being an unbiased position and interpreting the law as it is written, not as he believes it ought to be written.

Whether liberals or conservatives are right in their analysis of the ruling is what is up for debate, what is not up for debate is the fact that Justice Gorsuch is a much more complex individual than previously believed.