The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with the Trump administration, affirming in a 5-4 decision that federal authorities can arrest immigrants at any time for possible deportation after they have served time for other crimes.
The decision overturned a ruling of the oft-reversed 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lower court had ruled that any arrest on immigration charges must take place immediately after the immigrant is released from custody for another crime or he is exempt from ever being detained.
In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote: “The sole question before us is narrow: whether, under [the law], the Executive Branch’s mandatory duty to detain a particular noncitizen when the noncitizen is released from criminal custody remains mandatory if the Executive Branch fails to immediately detain the noncitizen when the noncitizen is released from criminal custody.”
He said there are multiple circumstances that could arise, such as a suspect not being found immediately.
“The issue before us is entirely statutory and requires our interpretation of the strict 1996 illegal-immigration law passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton,” he wrote.
“It would be odd, in my view, if the Act (1) mandated detention of particular noncitizens because the noncitizens posed such a serious risk of danger or flight that they must be detained during their removal proceedings, but (2) nonetheless allowed the noncitizens to remain free during their removal proceedings if the Executive Branch failed to immediately detain them upon their release from criminal custody,” Kavanaugh wrote.
“On the contrary, the relevant text of the act is relatively straightforward, as the court explains. … The Court correctly holds that the Executive Branch’s detention of the particular noncitizens here remained mandatory even though the Executive Branch did not immediately detain them.”
The case centered on immigrants Mony Preap and Bassam Yusuf Khoury, lawful permanent residents who had been convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison. Both were not detained by authorities for removal proceedings until years after they were released from prison.
The Washington Examiner reported Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion for the court. He was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Justices Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.
Alito pointed out that courts repeatedly have held that an official’s duties are better done late than never. And the immigrants’ argument that the law allows them only to be arrested immediately when they step out of jail.
The dispute focused on a federal law that says the Department of Homeland Security can detain immigrants convicted of certain crimes “when the alien is released from criminal custody,” the opinion said.
Talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh said the decision is only “common sense.”
He called it a “teachable moment” that the Trump administration is being upheld by the Supreme Court.
The majority found: “Aliens who are arrested because they are believed to be deportable may generally apply for release on bond or parole while the question of their removal is being decided,” the court said. “These aliens may secure their release by proving to the satisfaction of a Department of Homeland Security officer or an immigration judge that they would not endanger others and would not flee if released from custody.”
The opinion continued: “Congress has decided, however, that this procedure is too risky in some instances. Congress therefore adopted a special rule for aliens who have committed certain dangerous crimes and those who have connections to terror.”
The law calls for them to be arrested when they are released from prison custody on criminal charges.
But the ruling said officials have flexibility and are not required to be waiting at the jailhouse gates in order to arrest a suspect.
The ruling pointed out that four other circuit courts have reviewed the same rule, and all disagreed with the 9th Circuit, which now has been overturned to align with the other decisions.