WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed the U.S. government’s authority to detain immigrants awaiting deportation anytime – potentially even years – after they have completed prison terms for criminal convictions, handing President Donald Trump a victory as he pursues hardline immigration policies.
The court ruled 5-4 along ideological lines, with its conservative justices in the majority and its liberal justices dissenting, that federal authorities could pick up such immigrants and place them into indefinite detention anytime, not just immediately after they finish their prison sentences.
The ruling, authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, left open the possibility that some individual immigrants could challenge their detention. These immigrants potentially could argue that the use of the 1996 federal law involved in the case, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, against them long after finishing their sentences would violate their due process rights under the U.S. Constitution.
The law states the government can detain convicted immigrants “when the alien is released” from criminal detention. Civil rights lawyers argued that the language of the law shows that it applies only immediately after immigrants are released. The Trump administration said the government should have the power to detain such immigrants anytime.
It is not the court’s job, Alito wrote, to impose a time limit for when immigrants can be detained after serving a prison sentence. Alito noted that the court has said in the past that “an official’s crucial duties are better carried out late than never.”
Alito said the challengers’ assertion that immigrants had to be detained within 24 hours of ending a prison sentence is “especially hard to swallow.”
In dissent, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer questioned whether the U.S. Congress when it wrote the law “meant to allow the government to apprehend persons years after their release from prison and hold them indefinitely without a bail hearing.”
Tuesday’s decision follows a February 2018 ruling in a similar case in which the conservative majority, over liberal dissent, curbed the ability of immigrants held in long-term detention during deportation proceedings to argue for release.
‘MOST EXTREME INTERPRETATION’
Cecilia Wang, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued the newly decided case for the challengers, said that in both rulings “the Supreme Court has endorsed the most extreme interpretation of immigration detention statutes, allowing mass incarceration of people without any hearing, simply because they are defending themselves against a deportation charge.”
Dems target massage parlor owner linked to Trump
Trump has backed limits on legal and illegal immigrants since taking office in January 2017.
Kerri Kupec, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, said administration officials were pleased with the ruling.
In both of the detention cases, the Supreme Court reversed the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a liberal leaning court that Trump has frequently criticized. In each case, litigation against the federal government started before Trump took office.
In the latest case, the administration had appealed a 2016 9th Circuit ruling that favored immigrants, a decision it said would undermine the government’s ability to deport immigrants who have committed crimes.
The appeals court had said that convicted immigrants who are not immediately detained by immigration authorities after finishing their sentences but then later picked by immigration authorities could seek bond hearings to argue for their release.
The plaintiffs included two legal U.S. residents involved in separate lawsuits filed in 2013, a Cambodian immigrant named Mony Preap convicted of marijuana possession and a Palestinian immigrant named Bassam Yusuf Khoury convicted of attempting to manufacture a controlled substance.
Under federal immigration law, immigrants convicted of certain offenses are subject to mandatory detention during their deportation process. They can be held indefinitely without a bond hearing after completing their sentences.
In the most significant immigration-related case recently before the court, the conservative justices were also in the majority in June 2018 when they upheld on a 5-4 vote Trump’s travel ban on targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.
But in April 2018, conservative Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch joined with the court’s four liberal justices in a 5-4 ruling that could hinder the administration’s ability to step up the removal of immigrants with criminal records, invalidating a provision in another law, the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Trump Administration Sued Over Major Shift In Asylum Policy
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Civil liberties groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco to block the Trump administration from returning asylum seekers to Mexico while their cases wind through U.S. immigration courts.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups said in the suit filed Thursday against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that the policy puts asylum seekers in danger and violates U.S. immigration law.
Homeland Security officials didn’t immediately comment on the lawsuit, but have said the policy is crucial to manage the crush of asylum seekers at the border.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 asylum seekers from Central America.
It says the new policy is indiscriminately sending people to regions in Mexico experiencing record levels of violence.
Read the lawsuit filed here.
Trump Moves Closer To Signing Compromise Legislation To Fund Government, Avert Shutdown
WASHINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday edged toward backing a deal in Congress on funding for a barrier on the Mexican border, but left open the possibility that disputes over the wall could still cause a partial government shutdown by the weekend.
Trump, widely blamed for a five-week shutdown that ended in January, said he did not want to see federal agencies close again because of fighting over funds for the wall, one of his signature campaign promises in the 2016 election.
But the Republican president fell short of committing himself to backing the congressional deal, which would keep the government open but not give Trump the $5.7 billion he seeks for the wall.
“I don’t want to see a shutdown. A shutdown would be a terrible thing. I think a point was made with the last shutdown. People realized how bad the border is, how unsafe the border is, and I think a lot of good points were made,” Trump told reporters.
Two sources said Trump will likely approve the funding agreement, but the president said he would hold off on a decision until he sees actual legislation about the issue. He warned lawmakers against “land mines,” or parts of the bill he may not like.
“We haven’t gotten it (the legislation) yet. We’ll be getting it. We’ll be looking for land mines,” Trump said.
With a Friday night deadline looming before a shutdown, that leaves little time for the White House and the political parties in Congress to agree on funding.
The congressional agreement, reached by negotiators on Monday night, falls far short of giving Trump all the money he wants to help build the wall. Instead, congressional sources say, it includes $1.37 billion for new barriers – about the same as last year – along 55 miles (90 km) of the border.
Details of the legislation were still being written, but the full bill could be made public as early as Wednesday evening, according to lawmakers and congressional aides.
The accord must be passed by the House of Representatives, dominated by Democrats, and the Republican-controlled Senate, then signed by Trump by midnight on Friday to prevent a shutdown.
The measure’s fate in the House was far from certain given the risk that some conservatives and liberals will oppose the compromise for different reasons.
Like Trump, congressional Republicans have little appetite for a repeat of the 35-day partial shutdown in December and January – the longest in U.S. history – which closed about a quarter of federal agencies and left some 800,000 federal workers without pay.
“It’s time to get this done,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor on Wednesday, in reference to voting on the compromise.
Democrats in the House are aiming to schedule a vote on Thursday evening, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, told reporters. If passed, it would then go to the Senate on Friday.
A White House spokeswoman, Mercedes Schlapp, told CNN that lawyers were reviewing the administration’s options should Congress not provide Trump’s demanded money for the wall.
The Washington Post, citing a White House official, said Trump was likely to explore using his executive power to reallocate other federal funds for barrier projects along the southern border. CNN, citing the White House, also said Trump was weighing the use of an executive order, among other options.
Trump previously threatened to declare a “national emergency” if Congress did not provide money specifically for the wall – a move that would almost certainly draw opposition in Congress and in the courts.
“We think the president would be on very weak legal ground to proceed,” said Hoyer, the No.2 Democrat in the House.
Trump has come in for criticism from the right for wavering on support for the border wall, which the administration says will cut illegal immigration and drug smuggling.
“Trump talks a good game on the border wall, but it’s increasingly clear he’s afraid to fight for it,” right-wing commentator Ann Coulter tweeted on Tuesday. Trump abandoned a planned compromise on funding for the wall in December after similar criticism. (Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton, Amanda Becker, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Jonathan Oatis)
Rapper 21 Savage Freed From US Immigration Custody, Could Still Be Deported
OCILLA, Ga. (AP) — A lawyer for 21 Savage says the Grammy-nominated rapper has been released from an immigration detention center in south Georgia.
Immigration lawyer Tia Smith said in an email that the rapper, whose given name is She’yaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was released Wednesday on $100,000 bond. He had been held in the Irwin County Detention Center in Ocilla.
Abraham-Joseph was arrested early Feb. 3. An immigration judge on Tuesday granted him bond.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has said the British citizen overstayed his visa and has an October 2014 felony conviction in Fulton County.
His lawyers have said the 26-year-old rapper was brought to the U.S. when he was 7 and his legal status expired in 2006 through no fault of his own. They’ve disputed that he has a felony conviction.
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