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Supreme Court Relaxes Drug Deportation Policy

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against automatic deportation of legal immigrants for minor drug offenses, the New York Times reported June 14.  The unanimous decision resolved longstanding confusion at the state and federal level on how to interpret the term “aggravated felony” in drug cases.

Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo, a permanent resident of the United States since the age of five, faced deportation for a misdemeanor marijuana in 2004 followed by a second misdemeanor in 2005 for carrying a Xanax tablet without a prescription. 

Federal prosecutors argued that the commission of a second drug offense constituted an “aggravated felony” – grounds for immediate deportation – even though the state construed both offenses as misdemeanors, which would have left deportation to the attorney general's discretion. 

The high court's unanimous ruling reversed the policy of mandatory deportation for lesser offenses. 

“A 10-day sentence for the unauthorized possession of a trivial amount of a prescription drug”  is inconsistent with the definition of an aggravated felony, according to the majority opinion in the case.

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