The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced last week that it is changing the wording of its mission statement and removing the iconic phrase “nation of immigrants.” Meanwhile, the latest immigration controversy unfolds in the shadow of this official declaration, as the Trump administration steps up operations targeting undocumented immigrants.
Although DREAMers got a small reprieve from the Trump administration’s war on immigration, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to millions of other undocumented immigrants this week.
On Monday, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot revoke protections provided to DREAMers without proper notice, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The Trump administration is waging a multi-pronged attack on illegal immigration by more aggressive policing by federal agents, and ordering the repeal of DACA while simultaneously revoking individual applicants’ privileges.
The lower court ruled that individuals must be properly notified and also be given an opportunity to respond to notifications before any deportation action can be taken by the government.
However, this only proved to be a minor setback to Trump’s overall fight against illegal immigration. The next day, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants in custody have no right to bail while pending deportation hearings.
The ruling translates to indefinite detention for immigrants already in custody and any who are detained moving forward. Without the vital privilege of a bail hearing, immigrants can now be held for months or even years before they receive a final deportation hearing.
The ACLU and other civil and human rights organizations blasted the high court’s decision, saying it violates basic human rights and due process. With a vote of 5-3, the court declared that non-citizens are not entitled to the same rights granted to citizens.
Justice Samuel A. Alito, representing the majority opinion, said there is no provision for bail hearings under federal immigration law, and the 9th Circuit had no authority to order them. The court stopped short of issuing a ruling on the constitutionality of denying such hearings and sent the case back to the lower court for a ruling.
Justice Elena Kagan abstained from the vote, due to a possible conflict of interest. Justice Stephen Breyer, who dissented along with Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, issued a scathing rebuttal to the majority ruling.
“This court, I think for the first time ever, reads a statute as permitting long-term confinement of a ‘person’ in the United States without an opportunity to obtain bail.”
Breyer also said that the word “person” in the Due Process Clause of the Constitution has long been interpreted to include non-citizens and illegal immigrants as well.
The Supreme Court ruling has been almost universally condemned by human rights advocates who contend that indefinitely holding immigrants in custody who are not charged with any crime is not only unlawful but inhuman as well.
Eleanor Acer of Human Rights First blasted the ruling, calling it “an affront to our nation’s commitment to liberty and to U.S. human rights treaty obligations that prohibit arbitrary detention.”