And Neil Gorsuch - deliver blow to Trump's deportation law

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The decision is a loss for President Trump's administration, which has emphasized stricter enforcement of immigration law.

The court in a 5-4 ruling said part of a federal law that makes it easier to deport immigrants convicted of crimes was too vague to be enforced.

President Trump's Supreme Court pick surprised the White House Tuesday; casting the tie-breaking vote against the administration on a pivotal immigration case and handing the White House a major setback in their fight to crackdown on undocumented workers.

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Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch's latest vote is confusing his conservative fans. "The truth is, no one knows", he said. In delivering the court's ruling, Justice Elena Kagan cited a 2015 ruling written by Scalia that struck down a clause of the Armed Career Criminal Act as unconstitutionally vague.

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Tuesday's decision involves James Dimaya, a native of the Philippines who came to the United States legally as a 13-year-old in 1992. In 2007 and 2009, he pleaded no contest to charges of residential burglary in California.

The ruling, which helps clarify the criminal acts for which legal immigrants may be expelled, comes at a time of intense focus on immigration issues in the United States as Trump seeks to increase deportations of immigrants who have committed crimes.

Immigration officials relied on a section of immigration law that lists crimes that make people eligible for deportation.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco previously struck down the provision as too vague, and on Monday the Supreme Court agreed.

The federal government appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the U.S. Congress had reasonably identified a category of crimes that carry the risk of violence, and suggested that the justices should defer to the immigration authorities. It initially heard arguments in January 2017 when the nine-seat court was one justice short, but decided in June after Gorsuch brought the court to full strength to have the case re-argued. Deadlocked 4-4, the justices scheduled a new round of arguments once Gorsuch joined the court.

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