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Supreme Court Rules that Detained Non-Citizens Can Be Held Indefinitely

lawThe Supreme Court has overturned an earlier ruling that guaranteed bond hearings to immigrants awaiting their deportation proceedings after months—sometimes even years—of detention. A large number of undocumented immigrants stand to lose from the ruling, which had previously resulted in a deadlock prior to Justice Neil Gorsuch joining the Court. The High Court eventually came to a final 5-3 vote that sealed the fate of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants across the country.

The Supreme Court’s decision is particularly important in light of the Trump administration’s initiative to crack down on undocumented immigration and increase the number of deportations. Under the law, immigrants who have committed criminal offenses—even minor ones—and those caught while crossing the border can be held indefinitely as the deportation proceedings happen. But in 2015, an appellate court in San Francisco ruled to require bond hearings every six months for individuals facing deportation, requiring that detention beyond the first six months would require proof to justify their extended custody.

According to Justice Samuel Alito, the appeals court erred in its ruling, saying that the relevant statute in federal immigration law does not hint at such a requirement. He insisted that the law authorizes detention “until the end of the applicable procedure,” adding that the lower court had no justification for any of its additional procedural requirements.

This means that immigrants brought to court for deportation proceedings will find that they may no longer be released on bond. But more importantly, the number of immigrants held in detention for years while waiting to be deported may see an alarming increase.

The ruling drew the ire of Justice Stephen Beyer, who voiced his impassioned dissent from the bench,stating: “The many thousands of individuals involved in this case are persons who believe they have a right to enter into or remain in the United States, and a sizable number turn out to be right.”

Breyer also pointed out that many undocumented immigrants are held in detention for years because the government’s reading of the law entails “denying them the bail hearings that the law makes available even for those accused of serious crimes.” He added that the ruling would likely make the statute unconstitutional.

The high court sought separate constitutional arguments on the matter from those currently seeking bond in lower courts.

Among those to respond was Ahilan Arulanantham, Legal Director at the American Civil Liberties Union in South California. Arulanantham pointed out that when immigrants get a fair hearing, judges often release them after looking at their individual circumstances. He is confident that the lower courts will prove that these statutes, which have now been interpreted by the Supreme Court to require detention without hearing, are in violation of due process.

If you have questions about this latest Supreme Court ruling, or simply want to know what your rights are, talk to the legal team of the Lyttle Law Firm. Schedule a consultation with immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle to discuss this latest policy at length.