Immigration Detention Dispute Heads to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court took up a new immigration dispute on Wednesday as it contemplates the circumstances in which people awaiting deportation from the US can be detained by the federal government once they have finished sentences received for criminal convictions.

The nine justices were to hear an hour of arguments as part of an appeal by the Trump administration against a ruling by a lower court, which they claim hampered their ability to deport immigrants convicted of criminal offenses. Two legal residents of the US are the plaintiffs, who were both involved in different lawsuits filed back in 2013. Federal immigration law states that immigrants convicted of particular offenses should be held in detention indefinitely during the process of deportation without the need for a bond hearing.

In 2016, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that immigrants convicted of crimes not immediately taken into detention by immigration authorities following the conclusion of their sentence cannot be indefinitely detained while awaiting possible deportation. Also, those taken into detention later on were entitled to a bond hearing in which they could argue for their release.

Increasing numbers of immigrants are likely to face such circumstances, given the focus on immigration enforcement adopted by the Trump administration, which is also battling against so-called sanctuary cities and states that have elected to offer protection to undocumented immigrants.