In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court issued an opinion that held that federal officials may detain convicted immigrants indefinitely after they finish serving prison time, even years after.
The plaintiffs had argued that existing law meant that federal authorities must detain convicted immigrants within 24 hours of their release from criminal detention. After the initial detention, the litigants said the immigrants should be permitted a bond hearing so that they did not remain in custody indefinitely while their deportation case was pending.
The majority based their case in part on national security concerns: Justice Samuel Alito said the strict ruling was needed to ensure that homeland security officials were not constrained by inappropriate deadlines to detain convicted noncitizens.
OUR FREE OPINION
For starters, the Obama administration has argued in the past that the government has the authority to pick up and detain immigrants for deportation at any time, and is not required to act only immediately after a prison or jail sentence has been served.
We disagree with Trump, Obama and the majority opinion in this case. Where the parties challenging detention are legally in the country, as one of the parties was, due process of law requires that detention hearings should be timely: It is fundamentally unfair to detain someone who has already served a sentence for a crime for which they stand to be deported without affording that person an opportunity to post bail.
We agree with the minority jurists in this case that fundamental American legal values attribute to the Government a duty not to deprive any person of liberty without due process of law. And that duty was denied here.