Court Battles

Supreme Court sides with Trump in immigrant detention dispute

The Supreme Court on Tuesday backed the Trump administration’s ability to detain immigrants with criminal records at any time and hold them indefinitely while they await deportation, even if they served time for their offense years ago.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit’s finding that the mandatory detention requirement for certain immigrants with criminal records applies only if an immigrant is detained by officials as soon as he or she is released from jail.

{mosads}In delivering the decision, which split the justices along their ideological lines, Justice Samuel Alito said the 9th Circuit’s interpretation conflicts with the plain text and structure of the law Congress created for immigrants who have committed certain dangerous crimes.

“If the alien evades arrest for some short period of time — according to respondents, even 24 hours is too long — the mandatory-detention requirement is inapplicable, and the alien must have an opportunity to apply for release on bond or parole,” he said.

“Four other circuits have rejected this interpretation of the statute, and we agree that the 9th Circuit’s interpretation is wrong.”

Mony Preap, one of the lead plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit the case stems from, is a lawful permanent resident who had two drug convictions that qualified him for mandatory detention.

Despite completing his jail time for the drug charges in 2006, he wasn’t detained until he was released from jail on a separate, nondeportable offense in 2013.

In a dissenting opinion, which Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined, Justice Stephen Breyer said he disagreed with the majority’s reading of the law.

Citing the Constitution, he said he doesn’t think Congress intended to deprive people of their liberty for months or years without the possibility of bail if they have long since paid their debt to society.

“I would have thought that Congress meant to adhere to these values and did not intend to allow the Government to apprehend persons years after their release from prison and hold them indefinitely without a bail hearing,” he said.

“In my view, the Court should interpret the words of this statute to reflect Congress’ likely intent, an intent that is consistent with our basic values.”

Tags 9th Circuit Court Immigration Supreme Court
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