The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the government can indefinitely hold certain immigrants who state that if they are returned to their home countries they will face persecution or possible torture.
Despite the dissent of three left-leaning justices, the court held 6-3 that immigrants aren’t entitled to have a hearing about whether they should be released while the government is looking into their claims.
In Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion for the court he said “those aliens are not entitled to a bond hearing.”
The case involves people who had been previously deported and, when detained after re-entering the United States illegally, claimed that they would be persecuted or tortured if sent back. One man is a citizen of El Salvador who said he was immediately threatened by a gang after being deported from the U.S.
An immigration officer determined that the immigrants had a “reasonable fear” for their safety if returned to their countries, setting in motion an evaluation process that can take months or years.
The issue for the court was whether the government could hold the immigrants without having an immigration judge weigh in. The immigrants and the Trump administration, which briefed and argued the case before President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, pointed to different provisions of immigration law to make their respective cases.
Alito went on to say that he felt the administration’s argument explaining how the provision does not provide for a bond hearing was far more persuasive.
Justice Stephen Breyer didn’t see things the same way as Alito, going on to write in his dissent, “But why would Congress want to deny a bond hearing to individuals who reasonably fear persecution or torture, and who, as a result, face proceedings that may last for many months or years…? I can find no satisfactory answer to this question.”
The federal appeals court that is located in Richmond, Virginia sided with the immigrants favor, but other appellate courts sided with the government. The decision reached on Tuesday will set a new nationwide rule, however it’s only going to impact a small subset of individuals known as “noncitizens.”