The stakes of an immigration case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court heightened with Donald Trump’s election to the presidency last week.
The justices are scheduled to decide whether the federal government may hold illegal immigrants for periods longer than six months without a bond hearing on Nov. 30.
A class action lawsuit challenging the federal government’s practice of holding illegal immigrants without the benefit of a bond hearing was first organized by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2008. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court ruling that ordered bond hearings be held for every illegal immigrant in American custody longer than six months in Oct. 2015. The court said that current federal practice violated constitutional due-process guarantees.
During such a hearing, an individual in detention may petition for their release by demonstrating they are not a threat to public safety and by promising to report to all court-ordered appearances. (RELATED: Trump Can Implement Campaign Immigration Pledges On His Own)
The federal government petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing that the 9th Circuit placed an unreasonably high burden on federal prosecutors, and that extended periods of detention for illegal immigrants are not punitive measures but administrative challenges — there are currently 492,978 pending immigration cases and only 250 federal immigration judges.
The case becomes significant for the incoming Trump administration in several respects. In the first place, should the Court rule against the government, Trump’s ability to hasten deportations would be diminished in a limited respect. What’s more, it would create yet another administrative challenge for an overburdened and lethargic immigration system.
In addition, an adverse ruling could be a major test of Trump’s temperament. Always quick to rain his enemies with jeers at barbs on Twitter or from the bully pulpit, this ruling could set the tone for his relationship to the federal courts, who will, at some point, stymie his policy priorities.
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