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Supreme Court Sides With Trump, Rules Immigrants Can Be Detained ‘Indefinitely’

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Supreme Court Sides With Trump, Rules Immigrants Can Be Detained ‘Indefinitely’

In an extraordinary ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declared that immigrants can be held by U.S. immigration officials indefinitely without receiving hearings, even if they have permanent legal status or are seeking asylum.

In a 5-3 decision Tuesday, with Justice Elena Kagan recusing, the court ruled that immigrants held in custody do not have the right to periodic bond hearings.

The ruling is a profound defeat for immigration advocates, who argued that immigrants should not be held for more than six months at a time without such a hearing. Many are held for long periods of time — on average, 13 months — after being picked up for things as minor as joyriding. Some are held even longer.

The ruling follows a Trump administration appeal of a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last year that imposed a rule requiring immigrants held in custody be given a bond hearing, as long as they aren’t considered a flight risk or a danger to national security.

In its ruling, the court affirmed the right of the government to detain immigrants while it determines whether they should be allowed in the country.

“Immigration officials are authorized to detain certain aliens in the course of immigration proceedings while they determine whether those aliens may be lawfully present in the country,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

Justice Breyer read from his dissent, a rare move for the court that indicates just how passionately he disagrees with the majority opinion.

“We need only recall the words of the Declaration of Independence,” Breyer said, “in particular its insistence that all men and women have ‘certain unalienable Rights,’ and that among them is the right to ‘Liberty.'”

He continued, calling the ruling “legal fiction.”

“Whatever the fiction, would the Constitution leave the Government free to starve, beat, or lash those held within our boundaries?” Breyer argued. “If not, then, whatever the fiction, how can the Constitution authorize the Government to imprison arbitrarily those who, whatever we might pretend, are in reality right here in the United States?”

The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, Alejandro Rodriguez, is an immigrant with permanent legal status who was arrested for joyriding. He was detained by immigration officials for three years without a bond hearing.

The ACLU took up his case, eventually winning his release and the cancellation of his deportation order. The government’s appeal was begun under the Obama administration, and continued after President Trump took office last year.

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