Supreme Court Won’t Lower Bar for Immigration Detainees to Sue Government

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In a pair of rulings on June 13, the Supreme Court made it harder for those held in immigration detention to bring legal challenges.

In Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez, court file 19-896, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote (pdf) for a unanimous court that the federal government is not required to conduct a bond hearing for noncitizens detained for six months on immigration-related grounds. (Justice Stephen Breyer filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.)

In the other case, Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez, court file 20-322, the court ruled 6–3 that the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) doesn’t give federal district courts jurisdiction to consider detainees’ requests for injunctive relief in class actions. The opinion (pdf) was by Justice Samuel Alito. Sotomayor and her two liberal colleagues partially dissented from the ruling.

At issue was whether Zadvydas v. Davis, a 2001 Supreme Court ruling that held federal law provides an implied time limit of six months for the immigration detention of noncitizens when their removal isn’t “reasonably foreseeable,” applies to detainees who have been ordered to be removed from the country.

Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of the Immigration Law Reform Institute, hailed the new court decisions.

“The detention of removable aliens, whether they are illegal aliens or criminal aliens, is fundamentally different from detention as a sentence for a crime,” Wilcox told The Epoch Times by email.

“The United States is not holding them prisoner against their will. Rather, it is allowing them to remain in the United States while they challenge their deportation in the courts, and setting the conditions for their remaining here. If they don’t like those conditions, they can always leave detention and return to their native land. We are pleased that the Court reached the right result here, and squelched these lawsuits.”

In the Johnson case, Mexican national Antonio Arteaga-Martinez was the respondent. He was deported from the United States in July 2012 but reentered the country two months later. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a warrant for his arrest in 2018.

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