DEAN KEVIN JOHNSON SUMMARIZES ORAL ARGUMENT IN JENNINGS V. RODRIGUEZ FOR SCOTUS BLOG – Is There Some Hope For Constitutional Limits On “Gonzo” Immigration Enforcement & Mindless Imprisonment? — It’s A Nice Thought, But Too Early To Tell!

http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/10/argument-analysis-justices-seem-primed-find-constitutional-limits-detention-immigrants/

Dean Johnson writes:

Kevin Johnson Immigration

Posted Wed, October 4th, 2017 12:44 pm

“Argument analysis: Justices seem primed to find constitutional limits on the detention of immigrants

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard reargument in Jennings v. Rodriguez, a class-action constitutional challenge to a variety of provisions of the immigration laws allowing for immigrant detention. After the oral argument last term, the court asked for further briefing on the constitutionality of the detention of immigrants. With the Trump administration promising to increase the use of detention as a form of immigration enforcement, the case has taken on increasing practical significance since the court first decided to review the case in June of 2016.

As discussed in my preview of the argument, two Supreme Court cases at the dawn of the new millennium offered contrasting approaches to the review of decisions of the U.S. government to detain immigrants. In 2001, in Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court interpreted an immigration statute to require judicial review of a detention decision because “to permit[] indefinite detention of an alien would cause a serious constitutional problem.” Just two years later, the court in Demore v. Kim invoked the “plenary power” doctrine – something exceptional to immigration law and inconsistent with modern constitutional law – to immunize from review a provision of the immigration statute requiring detention of immigrants awaiting removal based on a crime.

During the oral argument last term, the justices focused on two very different aspects of the case. On the one hand, as even the government seemed to concede, indefinite detention without a hearing is difficult to justify as a matter of constitutional law. At the same time, however, some justices worried that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit had acted more like a legislature than a court in fashioning an injunction requiring bond hearings every six months. The reargument yesterday focused on similar questions, although several justices expressed alarm at the U.S. government’s claim that indefinite detention of immigrants is constitutional.

Deputy Solicitor General Malcom Stewart began for the United States by “stress[ing] the breadth of Congress’s constitutional authority to establish the rules under which aliens will be allowed to enter and remain in the United States.” Focusing first on noncitizens seeking to enter the U.S., he characterized the respondents’ claim as seeking “a constitutional right to be released into this country” during the pendency of their removal proceedings.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg quickly took a poke at the government’s case, noting that someone with a credible fear of persecution who is applying for asylum might be able to gain parole into the United States. Justice Sonia Sotomayor got to the crux of the case in short order: “[W]hat other area of law have we permitted a government agent on his or her own, without a neutral party looking at that decision, to detain someone indefinitely?”

Stewart had no response except to say, paraphrasing language in the Cold War case United States ex rel. Knauff v. Shaughnessy, that for “aliens arriving at our shores … , whatever Congress chooses to give is due process.” Sotomayor’s incredulous response was blunt: “[T]hat’s lawlessness.”

Rejecting Stewart’s claim that the only alternatives for arriving immigrants are detention or release, Ginsburg pointed out that “there is something in between,” and that monitoring devices could be used to keep track of an immigrant released on bond. In response, Stewart invoked Demore v. Kim, and said that due process does not require Congress to use the least restrictive means with respect to detention of immigrants.

Justice Stephen Breyer kept Stewart on the ropes by pointing out the oddity of not giving bond hearings to noncitizens when they are given to “triple ax murderers.” Justice Elena Kagan seemed to agree that the detention statute should be read to permit a hearing and possible release.

Stewart then returned to defending the plenary-power doctrine and its Constitution-free-zone for noncitizens seeking admission into the United States. In response to a question from Kagan, he admitted that his argument was premised on the claim that people at the border “have no constitutional rights at all.” Armed with hypotheticals like the former law professor she is, Kagan asked whether the government could torture arriving immigrants or subject them to forced labor. Stewart agreed that such treatment would be unconstitutional, but then had a hard time explaining why indefinite detention does not also violate the Constitution.

After getting Stewart to agree that “detention violates due process, if there is an unreasonable delay in that detention,” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked whether a six-month rule for a hearing, which the 9th Circuit had adopted, might be appropriate. Along similar lines, Kagan suggested that, for immigrants with ties to the country, years in detention would be problematic. Stewart persisted in his position that years of detention without a bond hearing would be permissible. Kennedy seemed troubled by the apparent inconsistency between Stewart’s admission that unreasonably prolonged detention could violate due process and his insistence that arriving immigrants lack constitutional rights.

A former Supreme Court advocate, Chief Justice John Roberts asked Stewart pointedly about a statement in the government’s supplemental reply brief that 14 months without a hearing would cause constitutional problems, noting that it “sounds close to a concession.”

Justice Samuel Alito inquired about the appropriate remedy if there was a constitutional violation, suggesting that rather than adopting a bright-line rule, the court could employ a multi-factored approach like that used in assessing constitutional speedy-trial claims.

Next up was Ahilan Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, who argued the case for the class of immigrants. He stated at the outset that there are limits on the government’s power to detain immigrants, which he said were based in longstanding case law. Ginsburg quickly asked about the 9th Circuit’s requirement of a bond hearing every six months, noting that criminal defendants receive an initial bail hearing, with no more required under the Constitution.

Kagan seemed to read Demore v. Kim as allowing for detention, but only for a matter of months. Arulanantham explained that the length of detention of the class members was much longer, in part because, unlike the detainee in Demore, they are opposing their removals and seek to remain in the United States. He emphasized that a significant component of the class was seeking cancellation of removal, which allows successful applicants to remain as lawful permanent residents.

Justice Neil Gorsuch raised some jurisdictional questions based on provisions of the immigration statute (8 U.S.C. §§ 1252(b)(9), (f)(1)) that limit the courts’ jurisdiction in immigration cases. Arulanantham said that the government concedes that Section (b)(9), which allows for review of a final removal order, does not apply to detention claims, and that the government had waived any jurisdictional objection based on Section (f)(1). Gorsuch seemed satisfied with these explanations.

Returning to Ginsburg’s earlier question about the 9th Circuit’s requirement that a bond hearing be conducted every six months, Arulanantham defended the rule, noting that “this Court has never authorized detention without a hearing before a neutral decision-maker, outside of national security, beyond six months.” Alito pushed back, asking, “Where does it say six months in the Constitution? Why is it six? Why isn’t it seven? Why isn’t it five? Why isn’t it eight?”

Roberts acknowledged that the constitutional concerns increase with the length of a detention, but still asked Arulanatham to justify that specific time limit. Arulanantham responded by citing government statistics showing that 90 percent of all detention cases under mandatory detention finish in less than six months. Roberts wondered whether habeas or other relief might be a possibility. Returning to this question later, Arulanantham offered statistics showing that final adjudication of a habeas petition takes 19 months in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit and 14 months in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit.

Roberts also suggested that some of the immigrants were in detention for lengthier periods because they were preparing their cases. Pushing back, Arulanantham said in effect that an immigrant should not be penalized for seeking relief. He emphasized that the fact that an immigrant is pursuing relief does not make the person a flight risk.

Alito asked why an immediate bond hearing, as is the rule in criminal cases, was not required. Arulanantham noted that the Supreme Court had rejected that possibility in Demore. Late in the argument, Gorsuch asked about a possible remand to the 9th Circuit to decide first on constitutionality. Arulanantham admitted that could be a possibility but asked what would be gained.

As the reargument made clear, this case raises some fascinating constitutional questions, which now are squarely before the court. The justices seemed primed to find constitutional limits on the detention of immigrants. They seemed less troubled than they had been in the first argument by the six-month period for bond hearings established by the 9th Circuit, with the discussion about the reasonableness of the six-month period seeming to assuage their concerns.

Ultimately, this case offers the Supreme Court the opportunity to address the modern vitality of the plenary-power doctrine and finally decide whether, and if so how, the Constitution applies to arriving aliens. We will likely have to wait a few months longer to find out how the justices resolve that issue, which has significant implications in the immigration-law arena.

Posted in Jennings v. Rodriguez, Featured, Merits Cases

Recommended Citation: Kevin Johnson, Argument analysis: Justices seem primed to find constitutional limits on the detention of immigrants, SCOTUSblog (Oct. 4, 2017, 12:44 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/10/argument-analysis-justices-seem-primed-find-constitutional-limits-detention-immigrants/”

**********************************************

We can only hope. As I’ve pointed out before, coercive detention and the building of the “American Gulag” are key parts of the Trump-Sessions-DHS “Gonzo” Immigration Enforcement Plan. I still don’t think the Supremes fully understand just how inhumane and coercive immigration detention is and how it’s used to “squeeze” the life out of a detainee’s due process rights. And, it starts with making it difficult or impossible to get a lawyer of your own choosing. You actually have to see what happens in a DHS Detention Center (many of them private, for profit enterprises, looking to minimize care, maximize profits, and keep the beds filled) to fully grasp what a mockery the detention process and the location of “Detained Courts” in Detention Centers or in far-distant Televideo Courtrooms makes of our system of justice, the U.S. Immigration Courts, and our promise of Constitutional rights.

PWS

10-04-17

DEAN KEVIN JOHNSON PREVIEWS JENNINGS V. RODRIGUEZ (INDEFINITE PREHEARING IMMIGRATION DETENTION) OA IN SCOTUS BLOG

http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/09/argument-preview-constitutionality-mandatory-lengthy-immigrant-detention-without-bond-hearing/

Dean Johnson writes:

“Detention as a tool of immigration enforcement has increased dramatically following immigration reforms enacted in 1996. Two Supreme Court cases at the dawn of the new millennium offered contrasting approaches to the review of decisions of the U.S. government to detain immigrants. In 2001, in Zadvydas v. Davis, the Supreme Court interpreted an immigration statute to require judicial review of a detention decision because “to permit[] indefinite detention of an alien would cause a serious constitutional problem.” Just two years later, the court in Demore v. Kim invoked the “plenary power” doctrine – something exceptional to immigration law and inconsistent with modern constitutional law – to immunize from review a provision of the immigration statute requiring detention of immigrants awaiting removal based on a crime.

How the Supreme Court reconciles these dueling decisions will no doubt determine the outcome in Jennings v. Rodriguez. This case involves the question whether immigrants, like virtually any U.S. citizen placed in criminal or civil detention, must be guaranteed a bond hearing and possible release from custody. Relying on Zadvydas v. Davis, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed a district court injunction that avoided “a serious constitutional problem” by requiring bond hearings every six months for immigrant detainees. The court of appeals further mandated that, in order to continue to detain an immigrant, the government must prove that the noncitizen poses a flight risk or a danger to public safety.”

****************************************

Read the rest of Dean Johnson’s analysis at the link.

This is huge in human rights. A “W” for the Administration, which many observers view as likely with the advent of Justice Gorsuch, will essentially “Green Light” the Trump-Sessions-Miller plan to construct the “New American Gulag.” The Gulag’s “prisoners” will be noncriminal migrants (many of them women fleeing violence in the Northern Triangle) whose only “crime” is to assert their rights for due process and justice under our laws.

The concept that migrants have rights is something that sticks in the craws of the White Nationalists. So, punishing them for asserting their rights (with an objective of coercing them into giving up their rights and leaving “voluntarily”) is the next best thing to denying them entirely (which the Administration routinely does whenever it thinks it can get away with it — and the Article IIIs have largely, but not entirely, been asleep at the switch here).

And, make no mistake about it, as study after study has shown, the “conditions of civil detention” in the Gulag are substandard. So much so that in the last Administration DHS’s own study committee actually recommended an end to private immigration detention contracts and a phasing out of so-called “family detention.” The response of the Trump White Nationalists: ignore the facts and double down on the inhumanity.

Based on recent news reports, DHS immigration detainees die at a rate of approximately one per month.  And many more suffer life changing and life threatening medical and psychiatric conditions while in detention. Just “collateral damage” in “Gonzo speak.”

Immigration detainees are often held without bond or with bonds that are so unrealistically high that they effectively amount to no bond. And, in many cases (like the one here) they are denied even minimal access to a U.S. Immigration Judge to have the reasons for detention reviewed.

Plus, as I reported recently, across the nation DHS is refusing to negotiate bonds for those eligible. They are also appealing Immigration Judge decisions to release migrants on bond pending hearings, apparently without any regard to the merits of the IJ’s decision. In other words, DHS is abusing the immigration appeals system for the purpose of harassing migrants who won’t agree to waive their rights to a due process hearing and depart!

Also, as I pointed out, in the “no real due process” world of  the U.S. Immigration Courts, the DHS prosecutors can unilaterally block release of a migrant on bond pending appeal. In most cases this means that the individual remains in detention until the Immigration Judge completes the “merits hearing.” At that point the BIA determines that the DHS bond appeal is “moot” and dismisses it without ever reaching the merits. Just another bogus “production” statistic generated by EOIR!

Oh, and by the way, contrary to “Gonzo” Session’s false and misleading rhetoric on so-called “Sanctuary Cities,” one of the things jurisdictions that rationally choose to limit cooperation with DHS enforcement to those with significant criminal records are doing is protecting their law-abiding, productive migrant residents and migrant communities from the patent abuses of  the “American Gulag.” “Gonzo policies” predictably drive reasonable people to take protective actions.

But, some day, the bureaucrats, complicit judges (particularly life-tenured Article III Judges, like the Supremes), reactionary legislators who turn their backs on human suffering, and misguided voters who have allowed this human rights travesty to be perpetrated on American soil will be held accountable, by the forces of history if nothing else.

PWS

09-28-17

Led By Justice Thomas, Unanimous Supremes Reject USG’s Attempt To Deport Mexican Man For Consensual Sex With A Minor — “Strict Interpretation” Carries The Day!

Here is then full text of the opinion in Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/16-54_5i26.pdf

Here’s a key excerpt from Justice Thomas’s opinion:

“Relying on a different dictionary (and “sparse” legislative history), the Government suggests an alternative “‘everyday understanding’” of “sexual abuse of a minor.” Brief for Respondent 16–17 (citing Black’s Law Dictionary 1375 (6th ed. 1990)). Around the time sexual abuse of a minor was added to the INA’s list of aggravated felonies, that dictionary defined “[s]exual abuse” as “[i]llegal sex acts performed against a minor by a parent, guardian, relative, or acquaintance,” and defined “[m]inor” as “[a]n infant or person who is under the age of legal competence,” which in “most states” was “18.” Id., at 997, 1375. “‘Sex- ual abuse of a minor,’” the Government accordingly contends, “most naturally connotes conduct that (1) is illegal, (2) involves sexual activity, and (3) is directed at a person younger than 18 years old.” Brief for Respondent 17.

We are not persuaded that the generic federal offense corresponds to the Government’s definition. First, the Government’s proposed definition is flatly inconsistent with the definition of sexual abuse contained in the very dictionary on which it relies; the Government’s proposed definition does not require that the act be performed “by a parent, guardian, relative, or acquaintance.” Black’s Law Dictionary 1375 (6th ed. 1990) (emphasis added). In any event, as we explain below, offenses predicated on a special relationship of trust between the victim and offender are not at issue here and frequently have a different age requirement than the general age of consent. Second, in the context of statutory rape, the prepositional phrase “of a minor” naturally refers not to the age of legal competence (when a person is legally capable of agreeing to a contract, for example), but to the age of consent (when a person is legally capable of agreeing to sexual intercourse).

Third, the Government’s definition turns the categorical approach on its head by defining the generic federal offense of sexual abuse of a minor as whatever is illegal under the particular law of the State where the defendant was convicted. Under the Government’s preferred ap- proach, there is no “generic” definition at all. See Taylor, 495 U. S., at 591 (requiring “a clear indication that . . . Congress intended to abandon its general approach of using uniform categorical definitions to identify predicate offenses”); id., at 592 (“We think that ‘burglary’ in §924(e) must have some uniform definition independent of the labels employed by the various States’ criminal codes”).

C

The structure of the INA, a related federal statute, and evidence from state criminal codes confirm that, for a statutory rape offense to qualify as sexual abuse of a minor under the INA based solely on the age of the participants, the victim must be younger than 16.”

*****************************************************

Notwithstanding a supposedly “conservative” Court, going back several Administrations the USG has been losing on a surprisingly regular basis in its attempts to take the most extreme and inclusive interpretations of various already very harsh deportation provisions. And, “strict constructionists” like Justice Thomas and the late Justice Scalia have sometimes had just as much problem with the Government’s overreach as have supposedly more liberal or “middle of the road” justices. That’s why I’m not convinced that Justice Gorsuch (who did not participate in this case) will be as much of a “Government ringer” as some believe, at least in immigration matters.

Despite a number of notable setbacks at the Court, DHS, DOJ, and the BIA all seem to be rather “tone deaf” to the Court’s message. The Executive Branch continues to take the most extreme anti-immigrant positions even where, as in this case, it requires ignoring the “unambiguous” statutory language.

Given the “maximo enforcement” posture of the Trump Administration, there is little reason to believe that the Executive Branch will “get” the Court’s message about more reasonable interpretations of deportation statutes. Hopefully, the Court will continue to stand up against such abuses of Executive authority.

PWS

05-31-17

Dean Kevin Johnson Summarizes Today’s SCt Argument In Esquivel-Quintana v. Sessions For SCOTUS Blog — Issue: Sexual Abuse Of A Minor!

http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/02/argument-analysis-justices-divided-meaning-sexual-abuse-minor-removal-purposes/#more-252948/

“The question before the Supreme Court is whether Esquivel-Quintana’s conviction constitutes an “aggravated felony” as “sexual abuse of a minor” under U.S. immigration law. The case raises fascinating, and complex, questions about Chevron deference to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute and about the rule of lenity that is generally applied to the interpretation of removal and criminal laws.

. . . . .

In sum, the justices did not seem to have reached a consensus as to whether Esquivel-Quintana’s crime constituted “sexual abuse of a minor” under the immigration laws. The justices’ questions revealed the complicated interaction among the relevant statutory provisions; the high stakes of removal for lawful permanent residents, the complex state/federal issues involved, and the intersection of criminal and immigration law add to the difficulty and significance of this case. A decision is expected by the end of June.”

*****************************

PWS

02/27/17