WASHINGTON (CN) — Immigrants seeking U.S. asylum who face indefinite detention here while their claims are being evaluated failed to secure Supreme Court relief in a pair of rulings Monday.
The high court sided with the government, holding that immigrants detained for six months after reentering the country are not entitled to bond hearings. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the majority opinion for the nearly unanimous court, with Justice Stephen Breyer offering a partial dissent.
Two Mexican nationals, Antonio Arteaga-Martinez and Esteban Aleman Gonzalez, brought the underlying cases. Each fled his home country out of fear of violence from street gangs and criminals. They were deported upon making the first border crossing into the U.S. illegally, but both chose to return in search of a safer life. Once detained, they attempted to file asylum claims on the grounds that their lives were threatened in Mexico.
While the U.S. government processed their asylum claims, both men remained in detention indefinitely. Civil rights attorneys called it unconstitutional for the U.S. to hold such detainees longer than six months without scheduling a hearing in which they could make their case to secure bond.
Arteaga-Martinez, for one, filed a habeas petition four months into his detention. Once six months had elapsed, a federal judge granted his habeas petition and ordered a bond hearing. The Third Circuit summarily affirmed.
Sotomayor said there is no reading of the Immigration and Nationality Act that requires the government to provide bond hearings.
“On its face, the statute says nothing about bond hearings before immigration judges or burdens of proof, nor does it provide any other indication that such procedures are required,” the Obama appointee wrote. “Faithfully applying our precedent, the Court can no more discern such requirements from the text of §1231(a)(6) than a periodic bond hearing requirement from the text of §1226(a). Section 1231(a)(6) therefore cannot be read to incorporate the procedures imposed by the courts below as a matter of textual command.”
Pratik Shah, an attorney with Akin Gump representing Arteaga-Martinez, did not return a request for comment, nor did the Department of Justice.
During oral arguments in January, the justices were divided over how to apply their precedents to the indefinite detention of immigrants without creating chaos for the lower courts. The justices focused on the 2001 decision in Zadvydas v. Davis, written by Breyer, that says noncitizens must be removed from detention after six months when their deportation is not “reasonably foreseeable.”
Arteaga-Martinez argued he was entitled to release under Zadvydas because his removal was not reasonably foreseeable. The government said that issue was not before the court, and the justices agreed, declining to reach a decision on the issue.
In his partial dissent, Breyer said the court had only to look to Zadvydas to decide the case.
“In my view, Zadvydas controls the outcome here,” the Clinton appointee wrote. “The statutory language is identical, which is not surprising, for this case concerns the same statutory provision. There are two conceivable differences between this case and Zadvydas, but both argue in favor of applying Zadvydas’ holding here.”
Breyer’s disagreement stems from implementing Zadvydas’ standard in this context, which the majority does not do.
“Since the Court remands this case for further proceedings, I would add that, in my view, Zadvydas applies (the Court does not hold to the contrary), and the parties are free to argue about the proper way to implement Zadvydas’ standard in this context, and, if necessary, to consider the underlying constitutional question, a matter that this Court has not decided,” Breyer wrote (parentheses in original).