The US Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] in an immigration case that will determine the permissible length of detention before a bond hearing is necessary, if one is required at all. Jennings v. Rodriguez [SCOTUSblog materials] is a class-action lawsuit challenging immigration detention procedures. Alejandro Rodriguez, a permanent resident that was detained for three years before being allowed to remain in the US, and the rest of the class argue [transcript, PDF] that the government must provide bond hearings for opportunity of release to detainees rather than holding them for extended periods of time with no showing of necessity. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] held in October 2015 that the government must provide bond hearings [JURIST report] at least every sixth months, and the government must show clear and convincing evidence to continue holding a person. However, the government argued to the Supreme Court that the language of 8 USC §§ 1225 and 1226 [text] shows the policy interests of Congress, and a challenge to individual detention is properly done through a habeas corpus claim. The government added to this that the Supreme Court cannot rewrite a statute in order to avoid constitutional questions, and Chief Justice Roberts seemed to agree [WP report]. The justices seemed split on whether they could affirm the ruling. Since a decision would be expected early in the new president’s term, the case may be held until a ninth justice is appointed [LAT report].
US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder] continues to be a controversial and heavily politicized area of law at both the state and federal levels. In October the Supreme Court denied a petition to rehear [JURIST report] United States v. Texas [SCOTUSblog materials], a case challenging the Obama administration’s policies supporting deferred action which would permit around 4 million immigrants to legally remain and continue working in the US. In September the Ninth Circuit ruled that children facing deportation proceedings may not file a class action suit [JURIST report] to determine whether they are entitled to an attorney as a due process right. In September 2015 the US Commission on Civil Rights issued a report criticizing [JURIST report] the Obama administration’s immigration detention facilities, stating that some “are not fully complying with detention standards regarding medical care, legal information and other basic standards of treatment.” In August 2015 a California judge upheld her July decision [JURIST reports] and ordered the government to release immigrant children held in family detention centers, “without necessary delay.”