Shouldn't it be enough that when the justice system has to deport an immigrant---legal or not---that they shouldn't expect even more costs to be borne by the public? I am convinced that the entire matter of immigration is a huge financial burden that all US citizens must bear, yet the rewards and advantages go to a small group. Most of us don't hire any immigrants at all, or on very rare occasions. Yet many American companies, large and even mom and pop operations, derive great benefit from the cheaper labor.

But, then, public funded universities offer free legal services? In this case those services are going to someone with a fairly minor criminal conviction. US law requires that even legal immigrants with "aggravated felony" and "moral turpitude" convictions be automatically deported. I don't have statistics on how many legal immigrants with these convictions do get to stay. It would be a very interesting discussion. My perception, based upon lackadaisical law enforcement otherwise, is that many thousands of them are falling through the administrative cracks---when by Congress' directive, they ought to go. The principle is that even in legal immigration we only let the purest stay. There is a lengthy list of what Congress considered aggravated felony or crimes or moral turpitude in the 1996 rewriting of immigration policies. There is some conflict between what Congress stated, and what states prosecute as felonies. This sort of discreprancy has formed the basis for this particular legal immigrant seeking to stay---and getting help from UCLA students and staff.
Immigrant Blasts Gov't In High Court Aggravated Felony Case

By Vin Gurrieri
Law360, New York (October 20, 2015, 4:50 PM ET) -- An immigrant appealing whether a state-level arson conviction counts as an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act has told the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the government's position that the crime qualifies as such a felony for immigration purposes, saying that view doesn't comport with the law's text.
Jorge Luna Torres, a green card holder from the Dominican Republic, reiterated his stance that the high court should reverse a Second Circuit ruling that the Board of Immigration Appeals' interpretation of the INA was permissible when it ruled that a state-level attempted arson charge constituted an aggravated felony, according to an Oct. 14 reply brief made public Tuesday.

Torres' reply brief said Congress chose not to classify all arsons as aggravated felonies and that the government's Sept. 22 brief urging the high court to affirm the Second Circuit's finding “strains to offer excuses for ignoring Congress’s choice of words.”

“The government proffers several arguments for treating generic arson as an aggravated felony despite Congress’s choice to the contrary,” Torres's reply brief said. “But none of the government’s arguments can overcome the text of the statute.”

Torres, who goes by George Luna, has been a green card holder for 32 years, but the government is trying to deport him based on a 1999 attempted arson conviction in New York.

When he flew into New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport from the Dominican Republic in 2006, Luna says he was charged with inadmissibility as it was deemed he had been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude, according to court documents.

After an immigration judge, the BIA and the Second Circuit all ruled against him, Torres brought the case to the Supreme Court in March, filing a petition for certiorari that was granted three months later.

The specific question presented to the justices is whether a state offense counts as an aggravated felony under the INA, if the federal law that allegedly describes the state offense has an interstate commerce component that the state violation doesn’t contain.

In an August brief, Torres argued that circuit courts are split on how to interpret the federal statute that defines aggravated felonies when it comes to state-level attempted arson charges. He argued the high court should follow the lead of the Third Circuit and interpret the statute based on what it actually says rather than attempting to discern Congress’ intent when the law was approved.

The government responded in its September brief by saying that the portions of the definition of “aggravated felony” under the INA that apply to offenses “described in” specific sections of the federal criminal code include convictions under state and foreign statutes that are equal to the cited federal provisions in every respect, minus the interstate commerce element that is the basis for federal legislative jurisdiction.

The government also argued in part that the BIA's interpretation of the aggravated-felony provisions were reasonable.

“Because petitioner was convicted of attempted arson under a New York statute that is equivalent to the federal arson statute in all respects except for its omission of such a jurisdictional element, petitioner was convicted of an aggravated felony,” the government said.

But in his reply brief, Torres argued in part that not all arsons qualify as felonies at all, noting that at least 18 states punish minor arsons as misdemeanors.

“Congress could not have wanted to classify all arsons, including all these misdemeanors, as aggravated felonies,” the reply brief said. “It was thus not absurd for Congress to classify only federal arson as an aggravated felony.”

Torres also pointed out that he was convicted of one of the less serious felonies in New York's penal code, adding that “if such a minor offense is an aggravated felony … it is hard to imagine an offense that would not be.”

Further, Torres called the government's purported fear that a literal reading of the definition for aggravated felonies will prevent it from removing noncitizens who have been convicted of serious state or foreign offenses, saying that “fear is greatly exaggerated.”

“Most serious state or foreign offenses are aggravated felonies under one or more of the 21 subsections of the INA’s aggravated felony definition, or would trigger removal under one of the myriad other grounds for removal contained in the INA,” Torres's brief said.

Besides arguing that generic arson is not an aggravated felony “under the plain meaning” of the INA, Torres maintained that the BIA’s view is still not entitled to deference even if the statute were ambiguous, according to the reply brief.

In August, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Immigrant Defense Project and others filed an amicus brief with the high court in support of Torres.

Counsel for Torres was not immediately available for comment.

Torres is represented by Stuart Banner of the UCLA School of Law Supreme Court Clinic and Matthew L. Guadagno.


The government is represented by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, as well as Benjamin C. Mizer, Donald E. Keener, Rachel P. Kovner, Edwin S. Kneedler and Patrick J. Glen of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case is Torres v. Lynch, case number 14-1096, in the U.S. Supreme Court.

--Editing by Kelly Duncan.