U.S. Supreme Court rejects bail hearings for detained immigrants

Customs Agents wait for protesters  to turn themselves in at the U.S.-Mexico border during a Dream Act  protest in Tijuana, Mexico
REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
  • Supreme Court rejects cases by detainees seeking to argue for release
  • Immigrants can be detained for years amid deportation proceedings

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled non-citizens can be detained indefinitely under federal immigration law without bond hearings and that federal judges lack the authority to order the government to release immigrants who have been detained without hearings on a class-wide basis.

In an 8-1 ruling, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the Immigration and Nationality Act does not require immigration judges to hold bond hearings after six months to determine if a non-citizen should be released while their case proceeds or is a flight risk or danger to the community.

Agreeing with the Biden administration, Sotomayor said there was "no plausible construction of the text" of the statute that would mandate the government provide for such bond hearings and that the law did not even hint at such a requirement.

The decision, which could affect thousands of immigrants subject to prolonged detention, overturned a ruling by the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of Antonio Arteaga-Martinez, a Mexican citizen who challenged his detention.

Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer partly dissented, saying he believed the bond hearing requirement was reasonable under an earlier, 2001 Supreme Court decision.

Pratik Shah, Antonio Arteaga-Martinez's lawyer at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, in a statement noted the Supreme Court explicitly left open "significant questions," including ones concerning constitutional due process, that the lower courts can now address.

In a separate decision, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that federal district courts lack the authority to issue injunctions to force the government to release immigrants after 180 days without a bond hearing on a class-wide basis.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, ruled the Immigration and Nationality Act deprived the district courts of jurisdiction to issue such injunctions and allowed only the Supreme Court to act.

The decision reversed the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld decisions by judges in California and Washington barring the government from detaining immigrants without bond headings after 180 days.

Sotomayor dissented, saying the decision risks depriving vulnerable non-citizens of opportunities to protect their rights by holding courts are "powerless" to issue class-wide injunctions and forcing them to "flood" courts with individual cases.

Joined by her fellow two liberal justices, Sotomayor said Alito's opinion "reaches this conclusion in a purportedly textualist opinion that, in truth, elevates piecemeal dictionary definitions and policy concerns over plain meaning and context."

The cases are Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez and Garland v. Gonzalez, U.S. Supreme Court, Nos. 19-896 and 20-322.

For Antonio Arteaga-Martinez: Pratik Shah of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

For Esteban Aleman Gonzalez: Matt Adams of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project

For the government: Austin Raynor and Curtis Gannon of the U.S. Office of the Solicitor General

Read more:

SCOTUS takes up bid to end indefinite detention of immigrants

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Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.