SCOTUS rules government can detain immigrants with past criminal records — even years later

detain immigrants with past criminal recordsUPDATED: 2019-03-20 12 PM

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court held on Tuesday that the government can detain immigrants with past criminal records — without a bond hearing — even if years have passed since they were released from custody.

The focus of the case was whether or not a bond hearing must occur promptly upon an immigrant’s release from criminal custody or whether it can happen months or even years later when the individual has resettled into society. According to the current statute, the detention can occur “when the alien is released” from custody, with no clarification on timeline.

In his opinion for the Court, Justice Samuel Alito took issue with the immigrants in the case arguing they were “owed bond hearings” in order to argue for their release. Alito said that the law did not support their argument.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote separately to say that the ruling was based entirely on the language of the statute at hand.

“The court correctly holds that the Executive Branch’s detention of the particular non citizens here remained mandatory even though the Executive Branch did not immediately detain them.”

Justice Stephen Breyer — dissenting — wrote and uncharacteristically read to open court from the bench. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

“It runs the gravest risk of depriving those whom the Government has detained of one of the oldest and most important of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms: the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law.”

The opinion comes in the wake of a governmental push to crack down on illegal immigration across the board. While difficult to know the precise number of individuals who would be impacted by the ruling, the lower court pointed out that each day the government holds some 30,000 immigrants while determining whether they should be removed from the country.