Supreme Court: Immigrants Can Be Detained Indefinitely

TOn Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Americans detained in America are not eligible for a bond hearing. It means that those with open immigration cases and currently being held at federal facilities may continue to be detained indefinitely.

In addition, the high court ruled that federal courts do not have the power to provide class-wide relief for detainees. The court ruled that detainees cannot argue that they have a claim to bond hearing in future. This is despite the fact that immigrant counsel does not apply during immigration proceedings.

The Court’s ruling maintains the status quo. Geo Group and other for-profit companies currently keep thousands of illegal immigrants at prison-like centres. These immigrants do not face criminal charges and they are not entitled to an explanation for their detention. The Court also maintains the U.S. government’s broad discretion over immigrant detention, ruling that immigrants can only have a bond hearing if the government says so.

According to Muzaffar Chisti, senior fellow at MPI (a nonpartisan research group), the ruling was not surprising. But, he adds, “it’s a pretty strong statement” from the highest court in the land. “It does not raise any more hopes for people who have been held in prolonged detention, that there may be a reprieve for them,” he says.

These are the two cases. Johnson v. Arteaga-MartinezAnd Garland V. Aleman GonzalezThey were brought to the United States by undocumented immigrants, who challenged their long-term detention. These immigrants argued that immigrants detained for more than six month are entitled to individual bond hearings, where the government must show the necessity of their detention.

Continue reading:The U.S. Immigration Policy is in the Hands of Judges

At the center of the lawsuits was a 1996 immigration statute that states an unauthorized immigrant “may” remain in detention for an extended period of time if they fail to meet certain criteria. Several detained immigrants sued the U.S. government, arguing that because the statute says “may” be detained rather than “shall” be detained, it connotes discretion by judges and entitles them to a hearing. Appeal was made to the Supreme Court. The Biden Administration claimed that the law gives the U.S. attorney general the authority to hold undocumented immigrants indefinitely while they are being litigated. (The Department of Justice declined to respond to TIME’s request for comment.)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that detainees have the right to a bond hearing in 2020. Because Garland was filed as a group action lawsuit. The Ninth Circuit granted relief to all class members and gave the right of a bond hearing for every plaintiff in the suit.

The Ninth Circuit was overturned by the Supreme Court on Monday. They ruled that prisoners are not entitled to a bond hearing, and therefore cannot receive relief for all classes. Individuals who want to assert a right of a bond hearing, whether on Constitutional or Statutory grounds, must bring their case.

In accordance with the ruling of the court, 8-1 was declared Johnson v. Arteaga-MartinezConcerning bond hearings. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring view which Justice Neil Gorsuch also joined. Justice Stephen Breyer filed an opinion concurring and disapproving in part. In Garland V. Aleman GonzalezThe court decided 6-3 on the issue of class-wide relief. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion. Justice Sotomayor provided an opinion concurring in some parts and distancing in others, Justice Elena Kagan was also present and Justice Breyer participated in some.

Leah Litman from the University of Michigan Law School filed a support brief for Gonzalez. As a result, she argues that the decision is “just completely unworkable and unrealistic.”

“It makes it impossible to ensure that everyone who is potentially entitled to a bond hearing will get one,” she says.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse is a Syracuse University research group that estimates that only around 21% people detained in immigration detention have the ability to obtain legal representation. TRAC data has also shown that having a lawyer increases your chances of winning an immigration case.

According to TRAC, more than 24500 immigrants were in detention as of June 5. According to TRAC, nearly 5,800 were in immigration detention facilities run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The average stay there was 55 days as per the American Immigration Council (an immigrant advocacy and research group). It is not uncommon for ICE detentions to extend for many years, as the case progresses through the increasingly backlogged immigration court system.

Continue reading:Record Breaking 1.6 Million Americans are Now in U.S. Immigration Court Rearlogs

Since long, advocates and immigrants have expressed concerns over safety of immigration detention. Many facilities have come under scrutiny and fed investigations have begun into the treatment of immigrant. The Biden Administration closed two ICE detention centres in Massachusetts and Georgia after launching investigations into claims of abuse.

Matt Adams was the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project’s legal director. He argued for the Garland V. Aleman Gonzalezargued that the Supreme Court’s decision raises ethical questions.

“To now find that the statute allows for indefinite detention is contrary to a fundamental principle upon which our system was founded—that government officials may not lock up a person without at least providing them their day in court to contest whether their confinement is justified,” Adams said in a statement to the ACLU. “But we are not done, and will return to court to address the constitutional claim that must now be resolved.”

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Send an email to Madeleine Carlisle at and Jasmine Aguilera at


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