Possession of a small amount of cocaine is a federal misdemeanor. In Texas, the crime is a felony – serious enough that it helped send Reymundo Toledo-Flores to prison for two years before he was deported to Mexico, says the Houston Chronicle. Tomorrow, the first day of arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2006-07 term, the justices will consider Toledo-Flores’ criminal case, along with that of a fellow Mexican deported after a drug conviction in South Dakota. The issue is whether the federal or the state view of the immigrants’ crimes should be used to decide their sentences and terms of their deportation proceedings.
The justices will need to clarify a federal immigration law that once was aimed at ridding the country of foreigners convicted of crimes like rape and murder but increasingly is being used to deport those charged with relatively minor offenses, including drug possession and shoplifting. The cases could have far-reaching consequences for thousands of other immigrants who came to the U.S. legally, but are at risk of longer prison sentences and automatic deportation because of drug crimes.