The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has sent a class action lawsuit back to the Southern California judge who presided over the case after expressing serious doubts about the constitutionality of withholding bond hearings from immigrants who have been in detention for more than six months. The court also preserved a court order that ensures bond hearings for immigrants while the case is under review.
In February this year, the Supreme Court instructed the Ninth Circuit to review the case’s constitutional questions and to determine if it should count as a class action. This directive came as the High Court found that the lower court had “misapplied the canon of constitutional avoidance” when it held that immigrants should get a bond hearing every six months they spend in detention. What this means is that the lower court ruled on a constitutional question when, as dictated by the canon of constitutional avoidance, it should have resolved the case on a non-constitutional basis.
The Trump administration disagreed with placing all detained immigrants in the same class, claiming the existence of several sub-classes of people, including asylum seekers and longtime residents. This, the administration claims, raises the question as to whether the case should proceed as a class action.
The Supreme Court also argued that federal regulations concerning the detention of immigrants do not ensure immigrants the right to periodic bond hearings, contrary to what the lower court claims, prompting the High Court to remand the case back to the Ninth Circuit for review.
In a biting and unsigned opinion issued on Monday, the Ninth Circuit panel wrote:
“We have grave doubts that any statute that allows for arbitrary prolonged detention without any process is constitutional or that those who founded our democracy precisely to protect against the government’s arbitrary deprivation of liberty would have thought so. … Arbitrary civil detention is not a feature of our American government.”
The fight for regular bond hearings for detained immigrants began in 2010, when lead plaintiff Alejandro Rodriguez sued after being denied a bond hearing. Rodriguez was a legal permanent resident since he was an infant but was ordered removed after a 2003 drug case that kept him in detention for more than three years.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Southern California picked up Rodriguez’s case and argued that denying bond hearings to immigrants kept in prolonged detention goes against the due process clause of the Constitution. Senior U.S. District Judge Terry Hatter Jr. in Los Angeles agreed, ordering an injunction in September 2012 for class members held in the Central District of California who are determined unlikely to commit a crime or flee.
If you have questions about this latest 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.