The Supreme Court will decide whether immigrants convicted of stealing a car must be deported, the Los Angeles Times reports. A strict 1996 federal immigration law says that immigrants, including permanent residents, who commit an “aggravated felony” in the U.S. must be sent to their native country, regardless of how long they have lived here or whether they have a family and a job. The Justice Department and some lower courts have disagreed on which crimes, including auto theft, are aggravated felonies.
Next week, the high court will take up a separate South Dakota case to determine whether immigrants who are convicted of drug possession can be deported as felons. The outcome is expected to affect tens of thousands of immigrants nationally. The new case before the court involves a California law regarding auto thefts, but all 50 states have similar measures. The 1996 law has a list of aggravated felonies that lead to deportation, including any theft that carries a prison sentence of more than a year. Government lawyers contend that any immigrant convicted of auto theft in California should be deported under that law.