Supreme Court Rules Trump Admin. Can Detain Illegal Alien Criminals at Any Time

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that immigration officials can detain illegal immigrant criminals at any time after their release from jail. In a 5-4 decision, the conservative majority overturned a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said immigration officials must arrest such illegal criminals immediately upon their release from jail, within 24 hours.

In Nielsen v. Preap (2018), a group of mostly green card holders argued that if illegal immigrants are not detained immediately after their time in jail or prison, they should get a hearing to argue for release while deportation proceedings go forward. The Court ruled against them, enabling federal immigration officials to detain such immigrants at any time after their release from state or local custody.

The immigrants attempted to take advantage of a loophole in the law. According to previous law, "aliens who are arrested because they are believed to be deportable may generally apply for release on bond or parole while the question of their removal is being decided," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the ruling. Yet Congress decided this left too much of a risk, so in 1996 it passed a law ordering that "these aliens must be arrested 'when [they are] released' from custody on criminal charges and (with one narrow exception not involved in these cases) must be detained without a bond hearing until the question of their removal is resolved."

Ultimately, Alito wrote, "neither the statute's text nor its structure"support the immigrants' argument. The Court upheld the Trump administration's argument against hearings for those convicted of crimes — an argument the Obama administration also made.

As Alito noted, other courts also disagreed with the 9th Circuit Court's ruling. This ruling represents a victory for the Trump administration, law enforcement, and the rule of law.

Follow Tyler O'Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.