In a case in front of the Supreme Court on Friday, conservative justices were divided against one another, and three stood with more liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Steven Breyer for a 7-2 reversal of an undocumented immigrant’s conviction for possession of firearms.
— Steven T. Sager (@stsager) June 21, 2019
When Hamid Mohamed Ahmed Ali Rehaif’s student visa was revoked after he failed some of his classes at the Florida Institute of Technology, he was not informed that the change in his status meant that he could no longer shoot firearms at a gun range, where he rented a firearm, or buy ammunition. Although Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted to uphold his conviction, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Roberts voted to overturn it.
According to SCOTUS Blog, the ruling decided that:
‘In a prosecution under 18 U. S. C. §922(g) and §924(a)(2), the government must prove both that the defendant knew he possessed a firearm and that he knew he belonged to the relevant category of persons barred from possessing a firearm.’
— WPEC CBS12 News (@CBS12) December 10, 2015
Rehaif remained in the country after his student visa was revoked, but was not, his attorneys argued, fully informed of what activities he would no longer be allowed to participate in, including the one for which he was convicted, making the arrest and conviction unenforcable. An analysis of the case on SCOTUS Blog says that:
‘Petitioner Hamid Mohamed Ahmed Ali Rehaif entered the United States on an F-1 student visa to study at the Florida Institute of Technology in August 2013. Under immigration law, he retained his student-visa status only so long as he remained enrolled as a full-time student. Eventually, he failed most of his classes, and the school academically dismissed him. Instead of leaving the country, however, he took up residence in a Florida hotel. One day he went to a nearby shooting range, renting a Glock to shoot for an hour and buying ammunition.’
Unlawful Alien Sentenced for Possession of Firearms and Ammunition: Hamid Mohamed Ahmed Ali Rehaif sentenced to 1… https://t.co/JqatI6tDdn
— FBI Tampa (@FBITampa) August 29, 2016
The justices asked questions about how the law would be read in other cases, including whether felons would be able to say that they were unaware that they were banned from owning firearms. Rehaif’s attorneys argued that the law in question applies specifically to immigrants who may not understand the law, or even that their citizenship status violates any laws.
‘[T]ake, for example, the dreamers, children who come into this country with their parents illegally, live here all their lives and think they’re law-abiding citizens, only to find out later in adulthood that they never were law-abiding citizens…[I]f that person who had no idea he was here illegally or unlawfully possessed a gun, he would be subject to 10 years in prison.’
REHAIF, HAMID M. v. UNITED STATES. Decided 06/21/2019 https://t.co/TU22LElIyX
— U.S. Supreme Court (@USSupremeCourt) June 21, 2019