Conservative Supreme Court Overturns Ninth Circuit (5-4); Reinforces Government’s Power to Detain and Deport Immigrants

According to reporting from the Los Angeles Times, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in favor of the Trump Administration and against immigrant rights groups in a dispute over the federal government’s right to detain immigrants without a hearing.

In a split decision, the Court’s conservative majority protected the power of federal immigration enforcement to arrest and indefinitely detain immigrants who have previously been arrested for minor criminal offenses — even if that offense occurred many years ago. Here, our immigration lawyer in Los Angeles provides an overview of this decision and explains how it further erodes the rights of immigrants in California and across the country.

Case Analysis: Nielsen vs. Preap

The Background

This case — Nielsen vs. Preap originally arose out of the Northern District of California when three lawful permanent residents filed a class action lawsuit against the U.S. government. Each of the three immigrants was taken into custody and detained without a hearing several years after they had previously been released for serving time for an offense that could have potentially resulted in their removal from the country.  

In hearing the issue, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came down against the federal government — ruling that immigration detention under Section 1226(c) must come relatively promptly after a non-American citizen is released from custody. If immigration enforcement agencies fail to take action in a reasonable amount of time, then they lose the right to do so. The Ninth Circuit noted that the law does not give the government the indefinite right to re-arrest lawful permanent residents for previous offenses.

The Decision

The question before the Supreme Court: Are there limits to the federal government’s power to detain immigrants without a hearing? Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel A. Alito ruled in favor of the Trump Administration and against immigrant advocates — determining that federal law does not require the government to act promptly in arresting and detaining non-citizen immigrants.

The Implications

Unfortunately, the nation’s highest court has once against ruled against immigrant rights. This decision further extends the Trump Administration’s ability to detain immigrants without a hearing and could end up leading to additional deportations. As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his dissent, this ruling allows the federal government to take immigrants into custody and detain them “perhaps for many months” and “without an opportunity to obtain bail”. Cecillia Wang, the Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), criticized the decision and stated the group will continue to fight back against the “gross overuse of detention in the immigration system.”

We Fight for Immigrant Rights in Southern California

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our law firm is committed to fighting for the rights and interests of immigrants and immigrant communities. To speak to an experienced immigration lawyer today, please call us now. From our law office in Los Angeles, we handle immigration cases throughout the region, including in Anaheim, Santa Ana, Fullerton, and Yorba Linda.

Josh Goldstein
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