Earlier today, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Jennings v. Rodriguez, a federal class action lawsuit originally brought by the American Civil Liberties on behalf of hundreds of immigrants challenging the federal government's detention practices.
Specifically, the issue before the nation's high court is whether those immigrants who have been held in detention centers for over six months while they fight their possible deportation have a right to a bond hearing — and even possible release — while their case is pending.
As for the procedural posture of the case, the Obama Administration appealed to SCOTUS following an adverse ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Here, the 9th Circuit affirmed the order of a Los Angeles-based district court judge, who mandated that the federal government must provide a bond hearing to immigrants facing deportation who have been detained for over six months.
During oral arguments, the ACLU attorney argued that the practice of indefinitely holding deportable immigrants in detention facilities violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
Furthermore, they argued that this practice often works to do nothing more than keep law-abiding immigrants — including legal permanent residents like the lead plaintiff — who have lived and worked in the U.S. for many years effectively incarcerated for months or even years because of minor or nonviolent crimes.
For its part, however, the federal government argued that immigration law is the exclusive domain of the executive and legislative branches, and, as such, the 9th Circuit's decision, which it previous called a “dramatic and wholesale revision” of existing immigration law, must be reversed.
Prior to oral arguments, experts were predicting that there was a very good possibility that the eight justices could split 4-4 on the case, meaning the 9th Circuit's ruling would be left in place. Indeed, reports indicate that this now appears likely given the tenor of today's hearing.
It's worth noting, however, that experts have also indicated that given the importance of this issue, there is also a good possibility that SCOTUS could elect to defer action on the case until such time as the Senate confirms the nominee for the bench put forth by President-elect Trump to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Once this happens, the case could then be re-heard.
Stay tuned for updates …
If you are a non-citizen accused of committing a deportable criminal offense, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can get to work protecting your rights and your future as soon as possible.