The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in February that immigrants, even those with permanent legal status and those seeking asylum, do not have the right to bond hearings every six months—essentially meaning the government is allowed to detain them indefinitely.
The majority opinion—written by Justice Samuel Alto and joined by the court’s conservatives—said that the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that detained immigrants have the right to periodic bond hearings was on the basis of “implausible constructions” of immigration laws. The court concluded that dentition needs to end once the proceedings are over—since nothing in the statutory text sets any time limit for detention.
The case, Jennings v. Rodriguez, has implications for legal permanent resident whom the government wants to deport due to crimes they committed and for asylum seekers who are waiting for a court date after turning themselves in at the border.
The lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit, Alejandro Rodrigues, is an immigrant with permanent legal status who was convicted of joyriding as a teenager and possession of a controlled substance when he was 24 years old. He was detained for three years without the right to appear before a judge to ask for bond.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) took up the case, eventually winning his release and the cancellation of the deportation order. The government’s appeal was started under the Obama administration, and continued after President Trump was elected.
The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court with two unresolved questions. First, whether it is unconstitutional to indefinitely detain someone without an opportunity for bail. Second, whether the challenge to that no-bail provision can be brought as a class action lawsuit, as opposed to individual cases.
The second question is of great importance since most of the immigrants affected by the Supreme Court’s decision do not have legal representation, making it difficult to pursue their own claims. Therefore, a class action protection for everyone, not just those who have an attorney who can file a lawsuit.