The U.S. Supreme Court is currently evenly split on an immigration detention case of utmost importance.
According to Reuters, the Court is currently divided 4-4 as justices debate as to whether an immigrant detained by the U.S. government for longer than six months is entitled to a hearing in order to seek his or own release from the country, rather than having to wait in prison to find out the result of extensive immigration deportation hearings.
Making the matter even more pressing, many feel that the Supreme Court’s eventual immigration-related verdict could be even more critical than usual in light of President-elect Donald Trump preparing to take office.
Trump, for much of his campaign, promised to focus on slowing illegal immigration and punishing those who have committed crimes.
Donald Trump is preparing to take office on January 20, 2017.
A 4-4 Supreme Court split, as the immigration decision is expected to yield, could ultimately see the continued enforcement of a 2015 San Francisco 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals verdict.
This decision, in particular, upheld a smaller court injunction requiring such a six-month immigration hearing to take place.
The lead plaintiff in the case — which was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is Alejandro Rodriguez, a Mexican man who was held by U.S. authorities for three years before getting a hearing.
“Rodriguez, a legal immigrant from Mexico… was working as a dental assistant when he was detained,” wrote Reuters’ Lawrence Hurley. “Rodriguez was placed in removal proceedings based on prior convictions for drug possession and joyriding. Although he was released eventually, the [immigration detention] case brought on his behalf continued.”
The ACLU’s immigration case is based on class action litigation that cites two specific immigration examples:
- Those taken into custody at a U.S. border when trying to enter the country illegally
- Legal permanent residents who have been convicted of a crime.
Reuters noted that the case could have a severe impact on U.S. residents who started out as illegal aliens.
Unfortunately, the entire Supreme Court immigration detention case — much like the United States as a whole — seems to be caught in the middle of an ideological war between left- and right-leaning political philosophies.
The immigration debate, therefore, seems to underscore exactly how important this year’s presidential election, and the incoming Commander-in-Chief’s right to name the tie-breaking Supreme Court judge, was to the future of the U.S..
As one might expect, the more liberal Justices are pushing for the person to automatically receive a hearing by the end of a six month period.
Conservative justices were, as Reuters noted, a bit more skeptical of that idea.
“You can’t just lock people up without any finding of dangerousness,” argued Justice Elena Kegan, “without any finding of flight risk, for an indefinite period of time, and not run into due process.”
It is this concept — due process — that left-leaning Supreme Court justices believe is being stripped away in immigration cases where the person arrested is held for longer than six months.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor also concurred that the very nature of a counter-argument against such a hearing absolutely runs against due process.
“We are in an upended world if we think 14 months or 19 months is a reasonable time to detain a person,” she added.
The Supreme Court’s conservative justices, meanwhile, argue that the Supreme Court was only supposed to return a verdict regarding whether the immigration laws necessitated a hearing; there is not supposed to be a review for constitutional violations.
President Obama, for his part, has in the past stated that he believes immigration hearings should be conducted in “certain instances,” such as the case of detained teenagers from September, as reported by Rewire. The president has, however, gone on record as opposing a hard-and-fast immigration ruling.
And at this point, unfortunately, the likelihood of such a concrete determination by the Supreme Court seems about the least likely of any outcome. Thus, the debate over how to handle immigration will only continue to heat up.
[Featured Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]