Immigrants Could Be Detained Indefinitely, U.S. Supreme Court Rules

Immigrants facing deportation proceedings can be held for months or even years without the chance to seek bail, the U.S. Supreme Court said.


Immigrants can be held by immigration officials indefinitely without receiving bond hearings, even when they have permanent legal status or are seeking asylum, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Feb.27.

The Supreme Court delivered its ruling in a 5-3 decision. “Immigration officials are authorized to detain certain aliens in the course of immigration proceedings while they determine whether those aliens may be lawfully present in the country,” stated the court.

Immigration lawyers argued that immigrants should not be held for more than six months at a time without receiving a bond hearing, according to reports.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion and was joined by the court’s conservatives in the suit “Jennings et al. v. Rodriguez et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated.”

Justice Elena Kagan, however, recused herself due to an unrevealed conflict, most probably arising from the work she had done on the issue as former President Barack Obama’s solicitor general, reported NBC News.

Alejandro Rodriguez, the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, is an immigrant who has a permanent legal status. He was convicted for possessing a controlled substance and joyriding. The immigration officials detained him for three years without a bond hearing.

“Every day, immigration officials must determine whether to admit or remove the many aliens who have arrived at an official ‘port of entry’ (e.g., an international airport or border crossing) or who have been apprehended trying to enter the country at an unauthorized location,” stated Justice Alito in the ruling.

Rejecting the appeals court’s ruling that said that immigrants who have been detained must be given a bond hearing every six months, the court in its decision stated that the appeals court reading of federal law is improbable, amounting to revising of the relevant statutes.

“Because the Court of Appeals in this case adopted implausible constructions of the three immigration provisions at issue, we reverse its judgment and remand for further proceedings,” the ruling specified.

The ruling also stated that the appeals court had interpreted the laws at issue incorrectly and sent the case back for the court to contemplate if the statutes, after it is fully understood, are unconstitutional.

“How can we as a nation, remain a haven for the prosecuted when we lock up asylum seekers, who are in this country legally to escape violence, for prolonged periods of time without access to an immigration court custody hearing?” Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First asked while condemning the Supreme Court ruling, NBC News reported.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer filed a dissenting opinion where he said, “We cannot here engage in this legal fiction. No one can claim, nor since the time of slavery has anyone to my knowledge successfully claimed, that persons held within the United States are totally without constitutional protection.”

He added that Constitution does not authorize arbitrary detention. “And the reason that is so is simple: Freedom from arbitrary detention is as ancient and important a right as any found within the Constitution’s boundaries,” he added.

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