Supreme Court Issues Troubling Ruling on Indefinite Detention of Immigrants and Asylum Seekers

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

In a long awaited opinion, the Supreme Court in Jennings v. Rodriguez disappointingly reversed an appellate court decision holding that U.S. immigration statutes do not authorize immigrants to be held indefinitely and affording those individuals bond hearings after six months to evaluate if detention remains justified. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the appellate court to consider the constitutional limits of the statutes, if any, on prolonged detention of immigrants and asylum seekers while they fight their deportation in court. 

In response, Center for Gender and Refugee Studies Director Professor Karen Musalo stated: “We are disappointed that the Court failed to recognize the statutory rights of immigrants in detention, including the many thousands of asylum seekers fleeing persecution and torture. However, with the constitutional issues left open, we remain hopeful that the lower courts will vindicate the liberty and due process rights of immigrants.”

Today’s decision has far reaching consequences for the tens of thousands of men, women, and families that seek admission to and safe haven in the United States only to find themselves behind bars. And, underscoring the importance and urgency of the high court’s decision, the Trump Administration has vowed to increase the use of detention, already at historic levels. These individuals will be forced to languish in detention for ever-lengthier periods of time—months or, more likely, years—given the staggering backlog in the nation’s immigration courts.

“Detention has devastating impacts on the physical and mental health of immigrants, exponentially more over time, especially for those who have escaped unimaginable horrors in their home countries and on the perilous journeys to our shores,” said CGRS Co-Legal Director Blaine Bookey. “We will keep the pressure on and do our part to mitigate the untold damage left in the wake of this ruling.”