Supreme Court says government can detain immigrants with past criminal records even years after their release from custody

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/19/2019, 10:32 a.m.
The Supreme Court held on Tuesday that the government can detain -- without a bond hearing -- immigrants with past ...
The Supreme Court says that the government can detain -- without a bond hearing -- immigrants with past criminal records, even if years have passed since they were released from criminal custody.

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

(CNN) -- The Supreme Court held on Tuesday that the government can detain -- without a bond hearing -- immigrants with past criminal records, even if years have passed since they were released from criminal custody.

The case centered on whether detention without a bond hearing must occur promptly upon an immigrant's release from criminal custody or whether it can happen months or even years later when the individual has resettled into society. The statute says simply that the detention can occur "when the alien is released" from custody.

The court voted 5-4 in favor of the government.

In his opinion for the court, Justice Samuel Alito said that the immigrants in the case had argued they were "owed bond hearings" in order to argue for their release. Alito said that the law did not support their argument.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote separately to say that the ruling was based entirely on the language of the statute at hand. He said it would be "odd" to interpret the statute as mandating the detention of certain "non citizens" who posed a serious risk of danger of flight, but "nonetheless" allow them to remain free during their removal proceedings if the executive branch failed "to immediately detain them upon their release from criminal custody."

"The court correctly holds that the Executive Branch's detention of the particular non citizens here remained mandatory even though the Executive Branch did not immediately detain them."

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the dissent, and took the unusual step of reading the opinion from the bench.

"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: the right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law."