Rulings Keep Door Open to Constitutional Claims
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has upheld the federal government’s policy of locking up immigrants for months or years without a bond hearing.
In the decisions under review, two federal appeals courts rejected the government’s inhumane policy of endless detention. The government, in its Supreme Court appeal, challenged the lower courts’ rulings and argued that immigrants cannot seek injunctions to stop illegal detention or challenge deportation practices as class actions.
Denying bond hearings can have life-threatening consequences, especially given ICE’s record of abuse, neglect, and death in its detention centers. And denying class actions would cut out the vast majority of people who do not have the representation needed to file individual cases.
Today’s decisions in Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez and Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez overturn the Ninth Circuit and Third Circuit Courts of Appeals rulings that required a bond hearing if a person in ongoing immigration proceedings is detained longer than six months. In Arteaga-Martinez, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal immigration statute does not require bond hearings, regardless of how long proceedings take.
Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez was argued by Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, who said, “The Supreme Court has turned its back on its prior interpretation of the statute, which required a custody determination after six months. To now find that the statute allows for indefinite detention is contrary to a fundamental principle upon which our system was founded — that government officials may not lock up a person without at least providing them their day in court to contest whether their confinement is justified. But we are not done, and will return to court to address the constitutional claim that must now be resolved.”
The ruling in Aleman Gonzalez does allow for a challenge to the federal policy on constitutional grounds, which the lower courts had not yet reached in either case.
“While the ruling is a setback, we are pleased the court recognized that our clients could proceed with a constitutional challenge to their prolonged incarceration,” said Michael Kaufman, the Sullivan & Cromwell Access to Justice senior staff attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California. “There is no more fundamental due process principle than that the government cannot lock someone up for months or years without a hearing.”
The court also ruled in Aleman Gonzalez that federal immigration law prohibits injunctions issued to protect a whole class. While other remedies may remain available, the decision will make it more difficult to protect noncitizens against unconstitutional government policies. As Justice Sotomayor wrote in dissent, the decision “risks depriving many vulnerable noncitizens of any meaningful opportunity to protect their rights.”
Co-counsels in Aleman Gonzalez include NWIRP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the Center for Immigration Law and Policy at UCLA Law School, Van Der Hout LLP, Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigrant Legal Defense, the Law Offices of Matthew H. Green, and Lakin & Wille LLP.