The Supreme Court ruled that a federal law does not require that immigrants detained for long periods while they are fighting deportation be granted hearings to decide whether they may be released on bond as their cases progress. The ruling will affect thousands of immigrants detained for many months while their cases are decided by immigration courts facing long backlogs, reports the New York Times. Seven justices joined Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s majority opinion, which was tightly focused on the words of the relevant statute. The court did not consider what the Constitution has to say about the extended detentions of immigrants, leaving that issue for another day.
The case concerned Antonio Arteaga-Martinez, a citizen of Mexico who has repeatedly entered the U.S. unlawfully, fleeing gang violence against him and his family. After he was arrested in 2018, an asylum officer ruled preliminarily that he had a reasonable fear of persecution if he was returned to Mexico. Arteaga-Martinez was detained waiting for an immigration judge to consider his request to halt his deportation. After four months without a hearing, he challenged his detention in federal court, saying that an immigration judge should decide whether he should be released while his case moved forward because he was neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. Lower courts ruled in his favor, but the federal government told the Supreme Court that U.S. law did not require bond hearings before immigration judges. Sotomayor agreed, writing that “there is no plausible construction of the text” of the statute “that requires the government to provide bond hearings before immigration judges after six months of detention." A second case decided on Monday ruled on a related question, saying that detained immigrants could not band together in class actions to seek injunctions requiring periodic bond hearings.