An immigrant convicted of a state felony drug charge that would be a lesser crime under federal law may contest a decision to deport him, says a Supreme Court ruling reported by the Washington Post. The 8-to-1 ruling, with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, said that a state felony charge that would be only a misdemeanor under federal law is not the kind of conviction that would trigger automatic deportation under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.
The case reverses lower-court decisions that led the government to send back to Mexico a South Dakota grocery store owner who had pleaded guilty in 1997 to aiding and abetting another person’s possession of cocaine. It is one of several pending disputes over deportation. The court heard arguments in a California case in which a Peruvian immigrant was convicted on car theft charges.