Posted on June 23, 2023

Supreme Court Broadens Grounds of Deportation for Immigrants Who Obstruct Justice

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, June 22, 2023

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that someone can obstruct justice even if an official investigation has not yet been opened — a decision that makes it easier to deport some immigrants with criminal records.

The court was reviewing two cases involving legal immigrants convicted of witness tampering and accessory after the fact, and whom the government wanted to deport under a law that makes even legal immigrants removable if they obstructed justice.

Lawyers had argued that obstruction required an open investigation, but Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, writing the chief opinion in the 6-3 ruling, said that’s not so.

“Individuals can obstruct the process of justice even when an investigation or proceeding is not pending,” he wrote. “For example, a murderer may threaten to kill a witness if the witness reports information to the police. {snip}”

The appeal struck at the complexities of immigration cases, where immigration judges must delve deep into the meaning of state laws to see if they match the categories that merit deportation under federal law.

In this case, federal law says legal immigrants can be deported if they have committed an aggravated felony. Among the list of aggravated felonies are offenses “relating to obstruction of justice.”


The Immigration Reform Law Institute, which had argued for the stiffer approach to enforcement, praised the high court’s ruling {snip}

“No national interest is served by making the categories of criminal aliens who are deportable narrower than Congress intended, nor by letting aliens who have committed serious crimes stay in this country,” said Dale L. Wilcox, IRLI’s executive director.