The Supreme Court has ruled that undocumented immigrants in Illinois and around the country cannot be deported for possessing a gun if they were not aware of their illegal status. The 7-2 decision, which was handed down on June 21, was made in the case of an Emirati man who entered the United States on a student visa and faced deportation proceedings after being expelled by the Florida Institute of Technology.
The ruling ruling means that federal prosecutors in such cases must now prove that undocumented immigrants both possessed a firearm and knew that they were in the United States unlawfully. In his opinion for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that immigrants facing deportation in these situations would not have the required wrongful mental state because of their lack of knowledge. Chief Justices John Roberts and Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor joined Associate Justice Beyer in the lead opinion.
Associate Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas disagreed. Justice Alito wrote in his dissent that the facts of the case were obscure and the ruling would place an undue burden on prosecutors. He also warned that the decision could lead to federal authorities facing a flood of lawsuits. Justice Alito pointed out that the Emirati man facing deportation had been told that he had to remain enrolled in college to keep his student visa. He was reminded of this by the Florida Institute of Technology when he was expelled.
Attorneys with experience in immigration law might cite decisions like this one when the individuals they advocate on behalf of believe that the system is stacked against them. Attorneys may also advise those who hope to start a new life in the United States to ensure that they comply with all state weapons laws and regulations if they decide to purchase a firearm.