An Aboriginal man from Port Hedland in Western Australia is facing the risk of deportation after being sentenced to one year in prison.
Jonathon Hirama, a Nyul Nyul and Nyikina man born in New Zealand, migrated to Australia with his Aboriginal mother in 1991 when he was around three years old and never obtained Australian citizenship.
In 2014, immigration laws changed allowing visas to be revoked if a person has been convicted of a crime carrying a prison sentence of 12 months or more.
This isn’t the first case of its kind, notably Daniel Love and Brendan Thoms.
Both men were born overseas to one Aboriginal parent and migrated to Australia when they were very young. After being sentenced to a year or more in prison, both were warned shortly before their release that they were being sent to an immigration detention centre.
Mr Love, Kamilaroi man born in Papua New Guinea, had his visa reinstated after seven weeks in an immigration centre while Mr Thoms, a Gunggari man born in New Zealand, remains in detention.
Mr Love has sued for $200,000 over his unlawful immigration detention
Currently the High Court is determining whether an Aboriginal person can be considered as an ‘alien’ under the Australian constitution. If the High Court finds that Aboriginal people cannot be ‘aliens’, they will be exempt from the government's mandatory deportation powers
Barrister Steven Keim SC acting on behalf of Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, told the Justices earlier this year that it was the "worst form of Australian dispossession" to deport an Indigenous person based on the Constitutional definition of the term 'alien'.
However, Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue argued that anyone born outside of Australia and holds no Australian citizenship, Aboriginal or otherwise, should be treated the same way, and therefore should all fall into the category of an ‘alien’.
An alien is someone who is not an Australian citizen and belongs to another country, based on judicial construction under the Australian Constitution.