Supreme Court limits bond hearing rights for noncitizens in removal proceedings
The Supreme Court limited noncitizens’ right to bond hearings in removal proceedings in two cases decided June 13.
In Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez, the Court held that Section 1231(a)(6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) does not require the Government to offer detained noncitizens bond hearings after six months, at which the Government bears burden of proving that a noncitizen poses a flight risk or danger to the community.
In Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez, the Court held that Section 1252(f)(1) of INA does not permit federal courts to hear class action suits for injunctive relief brought by noncitizens seeking bond hearings while removal proceedings are pending.
Antonio Arteaga-Martinez, a Mexican citizen who had entered the U.S. illegally, was ordered removed from the country.
He applied for withholding of removal on grounds he would be mistreated or tortured if returned to Mexico.
The Government detained Arteaga-Martinez while the withholding proceedings were pending.
Arteaga-Martinez filed a habeas corpus petition challenging his continued detention without bond. He relied on a Third Circuit case which held that noncitizens facing prolonged detention under Section 123l(a)(6) are entitled to a bond hearing after six months, and must be released unless the Government proves they are a flight risk or danger to the community.
Section 1231(a)(6) provides that after a 90-day “removal period,” a noncitizen “may be detained” or may be released under terms of supervision.
The District Court and Third Circuit ordered that Arteaga-Martinez receive a bond hearing.
But the Supreme Court reversed, in an 8-1 opinion, based on statutory interpretation.
Section 1231 provides that after entry of a final order of removal, the Government generally must remove a noncitizen during a 90-day “removal period.”
After the “removal period” expires, the Government “may” detain four categories of people – those inadmissible on certain grounds; those removable on certain grounds; those who pose a risk to the community; and those who are unlikely to comply with a removal order.
“Section 1231(a)(6) does not expressly specify how long detention past the 90-day removal period may continue for those who fall within the four designated statutory categories,” the Court said.
“[T]here is no plausible construction of the text of [Section] 1231(a)(6) that requires the Government to provide bond hearings before immigration judges after six months of detention, with the Government bearing the burden of proving … that a detained noncitizen poses a flight risk or danger to the community,” the Court said.
“Section 1231(a)(6) provides only that a noncitizen ordered removed ‘may be detained beyond the removal period’ and if released, ‘shall be subject to [certain] terms of supervision,’” the Court said.
“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 Court said.
The Government has “discretion” to provide bond hearings under Section 1231(a)(6), the Court concluded, but “the statutory text does not require them.”
Arteaga-Martinez also contended that interpreting Section 1231(a)(6) not to require bond hearings for prolonged detention violates due process.
But the Court declined to decide this constitutional issue, since it was not addressed by the lower courts.
Justices Thomas and Gorsuch, in a concurring opinion, said “there is considerable historical evidence that the Due Process Clause does not apply to laws governing removal of aliens.”
Justice Breyer dissented.
Esteban Aleman Gonzalez was detained under Section 1231(a)(6) pending removal. He and other similarly-situated noncitizen detainees brought a class action suit in district court in California, claiming they were entitled to a bond hearing.
The District Court certified the class, and enjoined the Government from detaining plaintiffs for more than 180 days without giving them a bond hearing.
The Ninth Circuit affirmed.
But the Supreme Court, in a 5-3 opinion, held the lower courts “exceeded their jurisdiction in awarding such relief.”
Section 1252(f)(1) of INA provides that “no court (other than the Supreme Court) shall have jurisdiction or authority to enjoin or restrain the operation of the provisions” of certain portions of INA.
“[T]he critical language in this provision strips lower courts of ‘jurisdiction or authority’ to ‘enjoin or restrain the operation of’ the relevant statutory provision,” the Court said. “The ordinary meaning of these terms bars the class-wide relief awarded” by the lower courts.
However, “Section 1252(f)(1) includes one exception to this general prohibition,” the Court said. “The lower courts retain the authority to ‘enjoin or restrain the operation of’ the relevant statutory provisions ‘with respect to the application of such provisions to an individual alien against whom proceedings under such part have been initiated.’”
Thus, “Section 1252(f)(1) prohibits federal courts from granting class-wide injunctive relief but does not extend to individual cases,” the Court said.
Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Breyer and Kagan, dissented.
She said that without the remedy of a class action injunction, the “practical realities” of the removal and detention system – where many noncitizens do not speak English and must assert their rights without an attorney – mean that many noncitizens will be deprived of a meaningful opportunity to protect their rights.
The Court’s opinion was “not without limits,” she said.
She said the Court did not accept that Section 1252(f)(1) “bars even classwide declaratory relief, a suggestion that would (if accepted) leave many noncitizens with no practical remedy whatsoever against clear violations by the Executive Branch.”