This week, the Supreme Court supported the U.S. government’s ability to detain immigrants awaiting deportation. The decision gives the Trump administration the ability to detain immigrants for years, even after they complete prison sentences. The decision is a significant victory for President Donald Trump’s hardline immigration platform.
The Arguments from Both Sides
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act is a law from 1996 which gives the government the ability to detain convicted immigrants “when the alien is released” from detention. While civil right lawyers argued that this language applies only to detainees immediately released from prison, the Trump administration argued that this law gives the government the ability to detain immigrants at any time. Justice Stephen Breyer dissented the ruling.
“It runs the gravest risk of depriving those whom the government has detained of one of the oldest and most important of our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms,” Breyer argued.
What SCOTUS Ruled
Ideological lines split the court in its 5-4 decision. Conservative justices voted in favor of the decision, while liberal justices comprised the dissenting minority. The vote determined that federal authorities can detain immigrants for an indefinite amount of time without bail, even after they’ve completed a prison sentence.
However, the ruling does allow immigrants to challenge their detention. Justice Samuel Alito authored the ruling and left open the possibility for immigrants to argue against the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act. Immigrants could assert that this law violates their right to due process under the United States Constitution.
Alito wrote that the court has no responsibility to create a time limit for how long an immigrant can be detained after serving a criminal sentence. He claimed that assertions of a 24-hour limit on detaining immigrants were “especially hard to swallow.”
Response to the Decision
While Trump administration officials celebrate their legal victory, the ruling’s critics are planning to challenge it. American Civil Liberties Union attorney Cecilia Wang asserts that the Supreme Court endorsed the most extreme interpretation of the law possible. She fears that this ruling will allow mass incarceration of individuals who are only trying to fight deportation charges.
The ACLU has stated that it is “looking into follow-up litigation along various avenues.”