Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Mellouli v. Holder, No. 13-1034, a case that shows just how out of step immigration enforcement has become. Moones Mellouli was a conditional lawful permanent resident engaged to a U.S. citizen and resided in the U.S. for 8 years, but was ordered removed as the result of a Kansas drug paraphernalia conviction. The “paraphernalia” that formed the basis for the order was Mr. Mellouli’s sock –because it allegedly contained four tablets of Adderall (a medication used to treat ADHD).
At issue in the case is a statute which makes individuals who have been “convicted of a violation of . . . any law or regulation . . . relating to a controlled substance (as defined in [the Controlled Substances Act])” removable. Mr. Mellouli’s argument is straightforward: Congress meant what it said when it stated that the relevant offense had to be related to a substance on a specific list. Thus, to deport him based on his sock-related conviction, the government should be required to prove that Mr. Mellouli’s conviction was also related to a substance on that list – not some other substance that might be controlled by a state or foreign law, but not under U.S. federal law. If the documents properly before the immigration court do not explain what substance was at issue and relevant state law criminalizes conduct related to substances not covered by federal law, the government simply has not met this burden.