Good News and (Very) Bad News from the Supreme Court



Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two rulings that have a significant impact on immigrant and refugee communities. On Monday, February 26, the Court rejected the Trump Administration’s request for the Court to accept an early appeal of a ruling by a federal district judge in San Francisco that requires the Administration to keep parts of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program in place temporarily.


This was good news. Their ruling required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to start accepting DACA renewal applications again for those who had previously been granted DACA. We at NWIRP were grateful that the Supreme Court rejected the Administration’s attempt to have it overturn that ruling even before the normal appeal process had played out. The Supreme Court’s decision means that DACA recipients are likely to have the opportunity to continue to renew their DACA status in the coming months. We will continue to update information for DACA recipients at this page.


The bad news arrived the next day, February 27, when the Court announced its ruling in Jennings v. Rodriguez, a case that had been brought by our colleagues at the ACLU. In that case, the federal government was appealing a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that required it to allow individuals in immigration detention to have bond hearings after they had been in detention for six months. The Ninth Circuit had rejected arguments from the government that it could hold people in immigration detention indefinitely and found that the governing immigration statutes should be read to include an implicit limitation of six months of detention without a bond hearing.


The Supreme Court overturned the Ninth Circuit decision. Some press accounts described the ruling as finding that the government could detain people in immigration custody indefinitely. The court did not say this. However, the court did reject the implicit limitation that the Ninth Circuit had established and sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit for it to consider the constitutional question that that Supreme Court did not tackle. It therefore remains possible that the Court will in the future find that indefinite detention is unconstitutional.


But while the ruling may not be as bad as some described it, it will nonetheless have a profoundly damaging impact on thousands of individuals in immigration detention and their families. Before last week, people in immigration detention in the Ninth Circuit, including those held at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, could pursue bond hearings after six months of detention if they did not qualify for an earlier hearing. Now, those same people will have to pursue individual habeas petitions before a federal district court and make a case as to why their individual case rises to the level of involving unconstitutional detention. This situation will make it realistically much more difficult for people to be able to obtain an opportunity for a bond hearing and will mean more people will be separated from their families for longer periods as they fight their cases in immigration court.


This ruling adds yet another injustice to the profoundly unjust system of immigration detention. NWIRP will continue to work with our partners in standing with our neighbors caught up in the system and fighting for their rights.