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Focus: Immigration laws applied to noncitizens facing drug charges

Are justices on the United States Supreme Court getting more than a tad uneasy over what a recent media article terms "the federal government's aggressive application of immigration laws to drug offenses?"

Maybe so.

As that media piece -- an opinion article inked by a director of a group that advocates for immigrants convicted of crimes -- notes, the nation's highest judicial tribunal has ruled against the federal government four times in the past decade in cases involving immigration laws being applied in criminal drug matters.

Such decisions might not mark a trend, but they are successively building up, as evidenced most recently by a case in which the court once again ruled against the government. Earlier this month, a court opinion cited a collective view among a clear majority of justices that the government "stretched the construction [of the law] to the breaking point" in a drug-related deportation matter.

The advocacy group Immigrant Defense Project (IDP) lauds such statements and related views expressing condemnation of the government's use of immigration laws to punish noncitizens in a selective and comparatively severe manner.

In some cases, notes the IDP, noncitizens, including legal residents holding green cards, are deported for offenses that are relatively minor in nature. Reportedly, many thousands of people were deported in a recent year on marijuana charges.

Many structural reforms relating to the criminal justice system are being debated and implemented these days. The IDP urges that those reformist winds also propel changes promoting "sensible and humane drug reform" that curbs draconian punishments being served upon immigrants charged with drug offenses.

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Jason Rogozinski

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