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Supreme Court Agrees to Review Cases of Prolonged Detention of Immigrants

The Supreme Court announced that it would review an injunction that offers bond hearings to detained immigrants held by immigration authorities for indefinite periods. The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California called out immigration agencies in 2010 for holding noncitizens indefinitely after apprehending them at the border, or after finding them eligible for deportation due to their criminal histories.

Alejandro Rodriguez, the lead plaintiff, first crossed into the United States as a baby and has since acquired legal permanent resident status, along with his parents, siblings, and three children. In 2013, however, he was convicted for drug possession and ordered removed from the country, but was first detained for over 3 years.

The ACLU alleges that such a detention without the review of a “neutral arbiter” is unconstitutional. In 2013, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld an injunction requiring the federal government to identify all detainees held under the challenged rules and to provide them with a bond hearing before an immigration judge who can decide their continued detention or release.

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the injunction once more in 2015, but removed a proposed subclass, defined as, “All noncitizens within the Central District of California who:

  1. Are or were detained for longer than six months pursuant to one of the general immigration statutes pending completion of removal proceedings, including judicial review
  2. Are not and have not been detained pursuant to a national security detention statute
  3. Have not been afforded a hearing to determine whether their detention is justified”

But in reversing that part of the injunction, the panel of three judges ruled that the specified subclass of noncitizens detained, “pending completion of removal proceedings, including judicial review,” does not exist. The 2015 ruling states that class members are held in immigration detention centers for an average of 404 days, throughout which they’re treated like criminals serving time in prison.

Aside from the subclass modification, the panel affirmed the injunction, “insofar as it requires automatic bond hearings and requires immigration judges to consider alternatives to detention because we presume, like the district court, that immigration judges are already doing so when determining whether to release a noncitizen on bond.”

In her ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Kim Wardlaw, said, “Because the same constitutional concerns arise when detention approaches another prolonged period, we hold that immigration judges must provide bond hearings periodically at six-month intervals for class members detained for 12 months.”

She added that while the government erroneously treats the bond hearing requirement as being equal to mandated release from detention, precedent shows a clear distinction between authorized detention, and detention “being necessary as to any particular person.”

To learn more about how SCOTUS’s announcement affects the rights of noncitizens, sit down for a discussion with the immigration law experts of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call us today at (512) 215.5225 to schedule a consult.

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