Gorsuch ruled with the court’s four liberal justices in favor of the immigrant, James Garcia Dimaya, who argued that his convictions on two burglary charges did not represent a violent crime.
The Justice Department had sought to deport Dimaya on the grounds that he had been convicted of a violent crime.
Gorsuch, siding with the court’s liberals, determined the congressional law at issue was too vague in defining a crime of violence.
The court’s decision effectively invalidates the federal law that requires immigrants convicted of violent crimes be deported.
Gorsuch’s choice to side with the liberal justices was expected after he questioned how the court could determine when a crime was violent if Congress had failed to do so during oral argument.
The federal law had been defended by the Justice Department both under the Obama and Trump administrations.
The case carried over from the court’s 2016 term when — because of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death and the Senate’s unwillingness to confirm a nominee for 14 months — the court deadlocked 4-4.
Updated at 11:30 a.m.