Published on: Monday, October 2, 2017

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Sessions v. Dimaya, No. 15-1498, to decide “[w]hether 18 U.S.C. 16(b), as incorporated in the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provisions governing an alient’s removal from the United States, is unconstitutionally vague.” 

A noncitizen who is convicted of an “aggravated felony,” as defined by the INA, is subject to mandatory removal, even if the person is a lawful permanent resident.  The INA defines “aggravated felony” to include certain categories of criminal offenses, such as the category “crimes of violence” as defined by 18 U.S.C. § 16 of the federal criminal code.  Subsection 16(b) contains a residual clause that defines “crime of violence” to include “any … offense that is a felony and that, by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense.”   In Johnson v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 2551, 2557 –58 (2015), the Supreme Court held a nearly identically worded clause of the Armed Criminal Act was void for vagueness.

SCOTUSblog provides an argument preview, post-argument analysis, and links to the briefing.  A transcript of the Supreme Court oral argument is here.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' opinion below held that subsection 16(b) is unconstitutionally vague.  For Defender Services training materials on the immigration consequnces of select crimes, click here.