The US Supreme Court has declined to block the deportation of thousands of Caribbean and other immigrants who, over two years ago, were not warned by their lawyers that, when they pleaded guilty to serious crimes, they would be targeted for deportation.
The law calls for mandatory deportation for Caribbean and other immigrants, including lawful permanent residents, who have an "aggravated felony" on their record.
In a 7-2 decision, the justices refused to apply the ruling retroactively to cases of immigrants who had unintentionally pleaded guilty before 2010.
The ruling came in the case of Roselva Chaidez, a Chicago woman who was born in Mexico and has been a lawful permanent US resident since 1977. Chaidez has three children and two grandchildren, all of whom are US citizens.
US prosecutors said that, in 2003, Chaidez agreed to plead guilty to two counts of mail fraud for her minor role in an insurance fraud.
According to court documents, Chaidez's son and several others had staged an auto accident, and that Chaidez received US$1,200 from an insurance company for a false claim of injury.
The court sentenced Chaidez to probation and ordered her to repay US$22,000, the total amount of the insurance fraud.
Court documents reveal that Chaidez completed her sentence and had paid her restitution by 2004.
Chaidez said, when she later applied to become a naturalised US citizen, she denied having been convicted of a crime. But only then, she said she learned that pleading guilty to mail fraud involving more than US$10,000 meant that she was subject to deportation.
Charles Roth, a lawyer for the National Immigrant Justice Centre, said “it is now in the hands of the Obama administration and the US Congress to keep this family together, as well as hundreds of others who at least deserve consideration of whether a run-in with the law enforcement more than a decade ago outweighs the good they have since contributed to our society.”