Trump's Supreme Court pick gives surprise vote in immigration case

Justice Neil Gorsuch, US President Donald Trump's only appointee to the top US court, joined in a 5-4 ruling stating that the legal definition of a crime of violence was too vague.
Justice Neil Gorsuch, US President Donald Trump's only appointee to the top US court, joined in a 5-4 ruling stating that the legal definition of a crime of violence was too vague.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch cast a surprise vote in a decision released on Tuesday (April 17) favouring an immigrant fighting deportation, siding with the US Supreme Court's left-leaning wing.

Justice Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's only appointee to the top US court, joined in a 5-4 ruling stating that the legal definition of a crime of violence - which was being used to deport Philippines-born James Garcia Dimaya - was too vague.

According to federal law, immigrants convicted of crimes of violence are to be deported.

Mr Dimaya, who had been convicted of burglary in California, challenged his deportation on the grounds that his offence was not severe enough to be considered a violent crime.

The ruling is a setback for the Trump administration's hardline immigration policies.

Mr Trump was swift in condemning the court's move and calling for congressional action to set an immigration crackdown into law.

"Today's Court decision means that Congress must close loopholes that block the removal of dangerous criminal aliens, including aggravated felons," he tweeted.

"This is a public safety crisis that can only be fixed by Congress - House and Senate must quickly pass a legislative fix to ensure violent criminal aliens can be removed from our society. Keep America Safe!"

The staunchly conservative Justice Gorsuch, who cast the deciding vote, has sat on the bench of the highest court in the land for just over a year.

Mr Trump often refers to Justice Gorsuch as the justice who will stand up for the values cherished by his core supporters, including gun rights and opposition to abortion.