The Supreme Court can decide whether thousands of immigrants should be detained indefinitely

The US Supreme Court will hear two cases on Tuesday that could affect thousands of illegal immigrants detained in U.S.A.

Unauthorized immigrants are often detained indefinitely in prison-like environments while their immigration cases are adjudicated. Plaintiffs in two high court cases argue that immigrants held for longer than six months are entitled to a hearing in which a judge decides whether they should continue to be detained. (Oral argument in two cases, Garland sues Gonzalez and Johnson sues Arteaga-Martinez, will be heard on Tuesday morning.)
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“We could never treat a citizen like this,” said Muzaffar Chishti., a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), a nonpartisan think tank. “A citizen cannot be held without bail for any length of time. But here we are saying that a person who unfairly does not commit any crime can be imprisoned forever.”

The Biden administration disagrees. The Department of Justice (DOJ) argues that the immigration statutes in question do not allow immigrants to participate in hearings and that the lower courts do not have the authority to grant relief on a broad scale — such as the Court of Justice. the 9th round of appeals did in the case of Esteban Aleman Gonzalez in 2020. How the Supreme Court rules on bond hearings and on whether lower courts can grant class-wide relief for thousands of immigrants in these circumstances could have far-reaching implications for the way immigration claims are litigated in the future.

ICE Facility Virus Outbreak
Gregory Bull — APA person is detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, in San Diego.

At the heart of the lawsuits is the 1996 immigration statute that states an illegal immigrant “may” be detained for an extended period of time if he or she fails to meet certain criteria. Several detained immigrants, including Gonzalez, have sued the US government, arguing that because the statute says “may” be detained but not “will be detained,” it means judges have the power to decide and allow them to participate in a hearing. Biden’s Department of Justice — using same position as the Trump administration—Suspicions that the law grants the Attorney General the power to detain illegal immigrants for any length of time while their cases are filed.

Michael Kaufman, an attorney with the ACLU Southern California Foundation who represents Gonzalez, said he is “deeply disappointed that the Biden Administration is defending the inhumane system that has resulted in the needless detention of hundreds of people across the globe. throughout America”. The fundamental question of the case, he argues, is “can the federal government detain you, can detain you for months or even years without providing protections?” the most fundamental of the proceedings”.

The Justice Department declined TIME’s request for comment.

Immigration advocates have long called on the US government to seek alternatives to incarceration and criticizes the conditions in which people live for an indefinite period of time. Leah Litman, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School who filed a case in favor of Gonzalez, said detainees are kept away from family, friends and workplaces while at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 during detention facilities. They are also prevented from finding evidence to support their claims and may have difficulty finding an attorney who can help litigate their case, she added. “It’s not just about the humanity of having someone incarcerated for years while they sue a successful immigration claim,” says Litman. “It’s also about the integrity of the immigration process.”

Read more: In a warning to other states, a federal judge has ordered immigrants detained in Washington to be paid more than $1 a day.

The amount of people detained between 20,000 and more than 27,000 over the past few months, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research organization at Syracuse University. The length of time a person is detained varies widely depending on the individual’s circumstances, but it is not uncommon for people to spend months or even years in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Immigrants who are in immigration proceedings do not have the right to an attorney, and those who do not have an attorney may have a harder time asking for a bond hearing. Most of those detained are asylum seekers or undocumented people who lived in the US for a long time before being arrested by ICE, according to the MPI.

Read more: Watch: This short documentary offers a rare, powerful look at immigrant detention

In his original lawsuit, Gonzalez asked the court to extend his ruling against other immigrants who had been detained for long periods of time — otherwise known as class-wide relief. A district court and 9th Street agreed. Gonzalez was released from prison after more than eight months in custody when the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in his favor. April 2020. It is not clear how many others have received similar relief because of the class action.

The DOJ argues that those courts do not have the authority to grant class-wide relief, pointing to a line in immigration law that says lower federal courts do not have the authority to limit the activities of provisions of the law unless they apply “such provisions to a foreigner. Because the law states “foreign individual,” not “alien,” the government argues that the lower federal courts do not have the authority to grant relief to entire classes of people.

Class action lawsuits are often used as a tool for immigrant advocates because most detainees do not have access to an attorney. “If you cannot get an order to apply on a class-wide basis — that is, to apply to people other than yourself — then you are asking each immigration petitioner to make the same claim and have the courts different Litman said. The ACLU’s Kaufman adds that class action lawsuits are an important defense for many of their customers.

Experts predict that the Supreme Court’s conservative 6-3 supermajority could rule these cases in a way that leaves thousands of people potentially incarcerated – some of them already in custody. kept for years – in detention centers as they waited for legal proceedings.

“The government statement… is the statute that says nothing about six months. It says nothing about the hearings. It says nothing about an immigration judge. Chishti said it is entirely up to the government to decide whether we want to detain you or release you. “Mr. Gonzalez is saying that in our constitutional democracy, that simply cannot be true. That you can’t keep someone forever in prison without giving that person a chance to explain why. Why should she be released?” The Supreme Court can decide whether thousands of immigrants should be detained indefinitely

Aila Slisco

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