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"This bulletin summarizes the availability of immigrant numbers during March." DOS, Feb. 13, 2007.

Immigrant Wins in Drug Deportation Case

By PETE YOST Associated Press Writer WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court on Tuesday made it easier for some immigrants convicted of drug possession under state law to remain in the United States rather than being subject to deportation.
In an 8-1 decision, the justices ruled in favor of an immigrant who pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting possession of drugs in South Dakota for telling someone where to obtain cocaine.
While such a crime is a felony in South Dakota, most first-time simple possession offenses are punished as misdemeanors under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
The issue before the Supreme Court was the interpretation of the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, which says immigrants found guilty of aggravated felonies are subject to deportation.
Conduct that is a felony under state law but a misdemeanor under the Controlled Substances Act is not a felony for purposes of immigration, stated the ruling by Justice David Souter.
Jose Antonio Lopez, a 16-year permanent U.S. resident, was deported to Mexico in January 2006, but could return to his wife and two children, who are U.S. citizens, one of his lawyers has said.
Even then, Lopez, who had operated a grocery store in Sioux Falls, S.D., still could face deportation, but an immigration judge would have discretion to allow him to remain in the United States.
In opposing the immigrant's legal position, the Bush administration said that Congress left the door open to counting state felonies as felonies under the federal Controlled Substances Act, which would make them a crime that could trigger deportation under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
''We do not normally speak or write the government's way,'' Souter wrote, referring to the government's interpretation of the law. ''Regular usage points in the other direction.''
Treating a misdemeanor under the federal law as a felony ''would be so much trickery,'' Souter wrote.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, declaring his colleagues' approach ''unpersuasive. ''
''Whatever else 'illicit trafficking' might mean'' in federal law, ''it must include anything defined as a 'drug trafficking crime,'' Thomas said.
The court dismissed the case of another immigrant whose case had been consolidated with that of Lopez. The court said its decision to accept the case of Reymundo Toledo-Flores had been improvidently granted.
Toledo-Flores is a Mexican national who objected to having his latest conviction for illegally entering the United States classified an aggravated felony. Toledo-Flores was contesting his prison term, not his deportation, and he had already served it.
The cases are Lopez v. Gonzales, 05-7664, and Toledo-Flores v. U.S., 05-493.

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