Supreme Court: Indefinite Detention for Immigrants is Allowed

Welcome to The Real News Network. I am Greg Wilpert coming to you from Quito,
Ecuador. The US Supreme Court issued a major ruling
on Tuesday, which in effect, legalizes the possibility of indefinite detention of immigrants
in the US. The decision affects not only undocumented
immigrants, but also legal immigrant residents and refugees. Back in 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
had ruled that immigrant detainees have a right to hold Bond Hearings once every six
months to see if they can be released from detention. The Obama Administration, and now the Trump
Administration, however, appealed this ruling to the Supreme Court successfully now. Joining me to discuss the consequences of
this decision is Sejal Zota. She is Legal Director at the National Immigration
Project of the National Lawyers Guild, where she supports immigrants’ rights through nationwide
litigation, education and technical assistance. She joins us from Durham, North Carolina. Thanks for being here today, Sejal. Yeah, happy to be here. So, what will the Supreme Court decision mean
for an individual detained immigrants. That is, what are the conditions at the moment,
and how might these conditions change as a result of this decision? That’s a great question. You know, the first thing that I want to make
clear about this decision is that the court did not say that prolonged detention without
Bond Hearings is lawful. They did not say it’s lawful. What they did say is that the statutes that
authorize this detention, that the statutes do in fact authorize this detention. The court did not address the constitutional
questions, even though those were briefed before the court. And so, now, this case is going to be sent
back to the Ninth Circuit for the Ninth Circuit to resolve whether this practice of holding
people indefinitely is passed this constitutional muster. What we’re talking about here is the government’s
practice of locking up immigrants indefinitely as they defend their right to remain in the
US, without a Hearing before a judge to determine whether detention is appropriate, whether
they’re a flight risk or present a danger to the community. So, immigrants here, they’re not asking for
release. They’re simply asking for some process, the
right to a hearing as to whether detention is appropriate as opposed to the policies
that we have right now of blanket detention. And that’s really why the constitutional argument
is so strong. Here, you’re depriving someone of their liberty
without any process at all, and historically our country has had very strong protections
against this. And so, just to give you an idea, I know you
asked about how people will be impacted, and the conditions. Just to give you an idea of the detention
regime, in the United States, our government detains about 400,000 immigrants every year. As you mentioned, that includes lawful permanent
residents who are green card holders, it includes asylum seekers, it includes survivors of torture. Many of these people will ultimately win their
deportation cases, but they’re forced to unjustly suffer prolonged detention along the way. For example, two thirds of asylum seekers
eventually receive asylum. About 40% of those who are here lawfully or
those who have prior criminal records, they ultimately receive relief from removal. So, I think on average, people are held for
about a year, but sometimes it’s three years, sometimes it’s four years. And sometimes it’s people with the most meritorious
cases that are detained the longest. So, you mentioned something like 400,000 immigrants
are in detention centers at any given day in the United States. This decision, what impact will it have on
the detention system as such? I think you mentioned also that many of these
detention centers are privately run. Does that mean that more will have to be constructed
and that there will be more immigrants in detention in total? And if so, who would stand to benefit from
this increase in detentions? Yes, I think for the time being, until we
answer the question as to whether detention is constitutional that there will be fewer
Bond Hearings and that more people will be detained. I think as we’ve all seen, the Trump Administration
has expanded the crackdown on immigration, more raids. And so, the government is in the process of
trying to expand its detention facilities. I think that Detention Watch Network had obtained
some documents through a Freedom of Information request, which documents that they’re trying
to reopen new facilities for detention, and that’s right, most of these are either local
jails, or private prisons. So, it is those owners of private prisons
who will benefit. There’s lots of research showing how lucrative
detention is as a business. Now, it seems that also the dissenting judges
that tend to be the ones who are appointed by democratic presidents were strong, actually,
in their arguments against the decision. I was wondering if you could just summarize
to us, just briefly, what some of the arguments were in favor of getting rid of this six month
limitation for Bond Hearings. You’ve kind of said that already, I guess,
in terms that the statute apparently doesn’t provide for it. But the dissenting judges were very strong,
it seems, in their arguments about having Bond Hearings because it would allow indefinite
detention. Can you just summarize some of those arguments
for us? Yeah, I think that they really start out by
talking about the strong tradition in our country of having bail protections. There are sometimes bail protections for people
charged with capital crimes, people who are civilly committed. They pointed out that even for people who
have already been ordered removed, who can’t be deported because their country won’t take
them, they get a Bond Hearing at six months. On the one hand, you have someone who’s fighting
removal, who has an argument that they’re not removable. They don’t get a Bond Hearing. On the other hand, you have someone who’s
already been ordered removed, but the country won’t accept the person, and that person can
get a Bond Hearing. So, they were saying essentially they made
some policy arguments that these folks, in a similar vein should get Bond Hearings. They’re really pointed to the constitutional
problem. They were, in some ways, like the Ninth Circuit
said because they didn’t want to read the statute to be unconstitutional, that they
read in this requirement and the dissenting judges were doing something similar. They pointed to some different things, but
again, we’re saying that there would be a big constitutional problem if we read the
statute to allow this sort of prolonged detention without bond. So now, you also mentioned that the decision
is not final because the Supreme Court is sending the decision back to the Ninth Circuit
court for it to determine the constitutionality of this issue. Part of it was also this issue about whether
or not immigrants have a right to a class action proceeding. Explain to us exactly the significance of
that decision to move it back to the Ninth Circuit court and does that mean now that
this decision could still be reversed? The court was saying, “Look, we are not going
to speak to an argument that hasn’t been reviewed by the lower court in the first instance.” They said, “Look, the Ninth Circuit has not
reviewed the constitutionality argument, so we’re not either. We’re going to send it back.” I think that’s not unexpected from this court. This court generally does not like to speak
to an argument in the first instance. I think that many of us are hopeful about
the constitutionality argument in the Ninth Circuit. You’re right, they did seem to suggest that
it’s questionable whether this group of people are properly classified as a class. One reason is because they’re different classes
of people who have different relief. And so, once the constitutionality of the
statute’s at play, the relief might be different for the asylum seekers versus the people with
convictions. And so, that was one basis for saying that
it might not be appropriate to review that question as a class. I do think that what the court said around
the class actions is going to be harmful to habeas class actions. Ok well, we’ll continue to follow this as
the new developments come. I’m speaking to Sejal Zota, Legal Director
at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Thanks for having joined us, Sejal. Okay, thank you. And I am Greg Wilpert for The Real News Network.

15 Responses

  1. P. Thomas Garcia says:

    Absolute wickedness.

  2. 140 Ex says:

    We have a rogue Supreme Court.

  3. Brian Sale says:


  4. Darryl Cooper says:

    The job of the Supreme Court isn't to tell us what we should do, it's to interpret the Constitution. The Constitution applies to citizens. We have a legislature to change the law, don't expect the court to do it for you.

  5. Stinky Pete says:

    Send all illegal aliens back to their home country.

  6. AMH Current Events says:

    White people here now may not have been the ACTUAL one who stole this land from the Native Indians and Mexicans, but if you call them illegal immigrants and call for their deportation, you have claimed this land just as your ancestors did, and are the very rapist, thieves and murderers as your ancestors were. This land was not found, this land was invaded. YOU LEAVE!!!!

  7. AMH Current Events says:

    This is clearly about money. Those people are PEOPLE! It's the only way you should see them… They are people too, people who have families…families that love them. This is pure evil!!!

  8. nenanuka says:

    This is clear all illegal inmigrantes, they are all danger can nit follow USA laws and where ever they go becomes a getho , they are dirty and discussting

  9. nenanuka says:

    They arrive here and makes demands, why don’t di thus demands in their own country,

  10. John Kesich says:

    Has the US always been this barbaric or is this a consequence of the 1963 coup?

  11. Urinal splashguard? or crocyamaka? says:


  12. Ramiiam says:

    Simple. Don't break into our country.

  13. P. Thomas Garcia says:

    The Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1.—Equal Protection Clause—reads, "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." It's important to note the term "person" is used here in place of "citizen", which is used earlier in the Citizenship Clause of this same amendment and section.

    See: Wong Wing v. United States 163 U.S. 228 (1896) where the Supreme Court ruled, "These provisions are universal in their application to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction , without regard to any differences of race, of color, or nationality ; and the equal protection of the laws is a pledge of the protection of equal laws."

  14. Martin Albers says:

    In a land that is litterally made from immigrants??

  15. Blake839 says:

    Illegal is illegal. They have no respect for law. Only legal immigrants should be here. Period.

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