The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision Monday in a case involving an immigrant who was deported following a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia conviction.
At issue is Mellouli v. Holder, a case challenging the removal of a Tunisia immigrant and lawful U.S. resident who was deemed eligible for deportation after he pleaded guilty back in 2010 to a misdemeanor offense of possessing drug paraphernalia in Kansas. The drug paraphernalia was a sock that contained four Adderall tablets.
Moones Mellouli was deported in 2012.
In ordering that Mellouli be deported, the Board of Immigration Appeals "reason(ed) that paraphernalia offenses relate to 'the drug trade' in general, making it unnecessary for the government to prove that the offense involved any federal controlled substance," the National Immigrant Justice Center explained in a news release.
But in its 7-2 decision issued Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that Mellouli's conviction should not "trigger" deportation under federal law.
"As our nation's criminal justice system is recognizing the need to reduce overly harsh penalties and restore fairness for those accused of drug offenses, we applaud the Supreme Court for ensuring that fairness extends to immigrants," said Charles Roth, NIJC's director of litigation.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented from the majority.
Thomas wrote the dissent, saying, "An alien may be removed only if he is convicted of violating a law, and I see nothing absurd about removing individuals who are unwilling to respect the drug laws of the jurisdiction in which they find themselves."