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Supreme Court rules against previously deported illegal aliens seeking to re-enter

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The Supreme Court has issued a devastating 6-3 ruling that delivers a harsh blow to previously deported immigrants detained after attempting to reenter the U.S. illegally and claim asylum.

On Tuesday, the high court ruled along ideological lines in an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito that some illegal immigrants do not have a right to a bond hearing concerning whether they should be released from detention while their asylum claims are being processed by the government. Justices Kagan, Breyer, and Sotomayor dissented in the Johnson v. Guzman Chavez ruling.

When an illegal immigrant claims asylum, federal law mandates that immigration officers determine whether there is a “reasonable fear” for the safety of the person involved if they are deported back to their country of origin. Normally, if they are detained, they are entitled to a bond hearing to seek release.

This case differs because the individuals had already been deported and then reentered the country illegally. The court was tasked with determining if these illegal immigrants could be detained by the federal government after requesting asylum or if they were entitled to a bond hearing.

(Video Credit: CBS News)

“Aliens who have not been ordered removed are less likely to abscond because they have a chance of being found admissible, but aliens who have already been ordered removed are generally inadmissible. . . . The only apparent relief they can hope to obtain is a grant of withholding-only relief [from being sent back to a particular country], and they would seem to still have a chance to get that relief if they absconded and were again apprehended,” Justice Alito found. “In addition, aliens who reentered the country illegally after removal have demonstrated a willingness to violate the terms of a removal order, and they therefore may be less likely to comply with the reinstated order. . . . Congress had obvious reasons to treat these two groups differently.”

The Wall Street Journal clarified the ruling:

“As in many immigration cases, the court had to make sense of complicated provisions that point in different directions. When previously deported noncitizens return unlawfully to the U.S., their previous removal orders automatically are reinstated and cannot be challenged. The Supreme Court found this effectively makes their cases ‘administratively final,’ triggering another section that makes detention mandatory until the noncitizens are again deported, which is supposed to occur within 90 days.”

“Elsewhere, federal law authorizes noncitizens to ask immigration judges to freeze their deportation orders to specific countries where they are likely to be persecuted or tortured, known technically as ‘withholding of removal,'” the media outlet continued. “Justice Alito wrote that even if an immigration judge were to freeze a deportation order, as a legal matter the noncitizen still has been ordered to leave the U.S. and therefore the mandatory detention rule remains in effect. Freezing deportation doesn’t grant a right to remain in the U.S., but rather prohibits removal to a specific country, he observed, and the government ‘retains the authority to remove the alien to any other country authorized by the statute’ where conditions may be safer.”

The three dissenting justices took strong exception to the ruling: “I can find no good reason why Congress would have wanted categorically to deny bond hearings to those who, like respondents, seek to have removal withheld or deferred due to a reasonable fear of persecution or torture,” Justice Breyer emphatically wrote in his dissent. “And I do not agree with the majority’s reading of the statute’s language as denying them that opportunity.”

Christopher Hajec, who is the director of litigation at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, said the majority read immigration law “as written” and therefore refused to make final orders of removal “murky where the law does not make it so.”

“The court explained that the withholding of removal process is about whether an alien can be removed to a specific country where he may fear persecution, and does not change the final order of removal saying that he is to be removed from the United States,” Hajec asserted.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, who is the policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, referred to Tuesday’s ruling as “horrifying.” He compared it to the government snatching a random individual off the street, tossing them in jail, and then claiming they have no right to appear before a judge to contest whether they’re a flight risk or danger to society: “Well, the government can do that to thousands of immigrants,” he tweeted. “And it does.”

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