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Legal Immigrants Should Not Automatically Be Deported For Minor Drug Offenses

The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that legal immigrants should not be automatically deported after being convicted of minor drug crimes, although federal authorities may classify a second minor drug offense as an aggravated felony. Under federal law, legal immigrants are supposed to be deported after a conviction for an aggravated felony. The question then is: what is considered an aggravated felony? In the past, under federal immigration law, federal authorities were able to characterize a second minor drug crime like possession of marijuana or possession of a small amount of pills as an aggravated felony, and deportation proceedings were initiated. However, the USSC has ruled that minor drug crimes where defendants typical receive probation or a minimal jail sentence were not intended to be aggravated felonies. Felonies are defined as more serious crimes for which a person can be imprisoned for at least one year.

This Supreme Court ruling does not mean that no legal immigrant convicted of relatively minor drug crimes will be deported. What it does mean is that deportation proceedings should not be automatic for minor drug convictions because a second minor drug conviction should not be characterized as an aggravated felony. However, it is certainly still possible that a legal immigrant convicted of a drug offense, whether misdemeanor or felony, may be deported.