U.S. Supreme Court

Immigration law doesn't give detained immigrants the right to periodic bond hearings, SCOTUS rules

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that federal laws do not give detained immigrants the right to twice-a-year bond hearings.

The Supreme Court decision overturned a ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The meaning of the relevant statutory provisions is clear—and clearly contrary to the decision of the Court of Appeals,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in a section of his majority opinion that was joined by four justices.

According to Alito, nothing in the statute “even remotely supports” the 9th Circuit’s procedural requirements: that bond hearings must be held every six months, during which the government must show by clear and convincing evidence that continued detention is necessary.

The 9th Circuit had read the requirements into the federal laws to avoid deciding constitutional issues, a procedure known as the canon of constitutional avoidance. “But a court relying on that canon still must interpret the statute, not rewrite it,” Alito said.

The Supreme Court remanded the case for a 9th Circuit decision on the immigrants’ constitutional claims and on whether the immigrants could pursue the case as a class action.

The ABA had argued in an amicus brief that people being held in immigration detention should get a bond hearing within a set time period to determine whether they pose a danger or a flight risk. The ABA said the due process clause requires a bright-line rule fixing the time period for such a hearing, and the Supreme Court should uphold the six-month deadline adopted by the 9th Circuit.

Alito’s majority opinion was joined in full by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch concurred in the judgment.

Thomas argued in a partial concurrence that no court has jurisdiction in the case. Courts in immigration cases only have jurisdiction to review a final removal order or a petition raising other circumstances not present in the case, he said. Because a court majority agrees there is jurisdiction, Thomas said, he agrees with the resolution on the merits. Gorsuch joined Thomas’ opinion, except for a footnote.

The case is Jennings v. Rodriguez. A preliminary summary from SCOTUSblog quickly reported on the holding. Bloomberg and Reuters also had early coverage.

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