Supreme Court stops deportation over drug conviction

In a 7-2 decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court over-turned a previous federal appeals court ruling which had upheld the deportation of a non-citizen for possessing drug paraphernalia. Federal law allows the government to order the deportation of immigrants (legal or illegal) that are “convicted of a violation of…any law…of a state, (or) the United States…relating to a controlled substance.”

The case ruling issued yesterday involved a Tunisian man named Moones Mellouni who immigrated to the U.S. on a student visa, and was deported in 2012 after being convicted of a misdemeanor in Kansas for hiding Adderall tablets his sock. While the drug is not on the list of federally banned substances, a lower federal court ruled on appeal that because Mellouni was in possession of paraphernalia, the specific drug didn’t need to be on the list of “controlled substances” to make him eligible for deportation.

Writing the majority opinion for the Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg highlighted the ridiculous logic of the appeals court’s ruling:

The incongruous upshot is that an alien is not removable for possessing a substance controlled only under Kansas law, but he is removable for using a sock to contain that substance.

In dissent, Justice Thomas countered Ginsburg’s argument, writing that there is “nothing absurd about removing individuals who are unwilling to respect the drug laws”.

This latest case marks the fourth time in the last 10 years that the Supreme Court has overturned deportation orders related to drug convictions, two of which government prosecutors tried to pin trafficking charges on immigrants who were only found in possession of an illegal substance.


[USA Today] [NPR]