By Liana Stinson
On October 3, 2017, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments regarding immigration detention. In Jennings v. Rodriguez, the Court is faced with the issue of whether immigrants, like any U.S. citizen placed in civil or criminal detention, are guaranteed a bond hearing. This class action arose out of immigrants being detained for more than six months during immigration proceedings, without bond hearings.
Among members of the class action, one story truly stands out. Rodriguez, along with his entire immediate family, is a permanent, lawful citizen of the United States. Prior to being detained, Rodriguez worked as a dental assistant. In 2003, his life began to change. Rodriguez was convicted of possession of a controlled substance in which he was sentenced to five years’ probation, but no jail time. In 2004, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) subjected Rodriguez to civil detention. ICE then determines whether to keep the individual detained or begin the removal process. Rodriguez was unable to be removed because he had a prior conviction of “joyriding” which the government qualified as an “aggravated felony.” Subsequently, Rodriguez appealed this decision but his case was held in abeyance until the Supreme Court decided if driving a stolen vehicle classified as an “aggravated felony” in a related case. In mid-2007, the government released Rodriguez. Altogether, Rodriguez was detained for 1,189 days (approximately three years and three months.) The class members spent, on average, 404 days in detention.
On January 25, 2017, an executive order was put into effect that immigrants facing removal from the United States were no longer entitled to post bond and be released. The Supreme Court of the United States has yet to issue a final ruling in Jennings v. Rodriguez on whether immigrants placed in criminal or civil detention are guaranteed a bond hearing.
On one hand, there is the concern for our national borders and protecting U.S. citizen from criminal aliens. On the other hand, there is the concern that people are being held for extended periods of time, 1,189 days in Rodriguez’s case, without having a bond hearing. People are forced to remain in detention for an unknown period of time while the government determines whether to deport them.
While recognizing that there is a major concern for protecting the public, the overriding concern should be for human decency. The class action members cited numerous cases in which the courts held that the defendants were entitled to bond hearings. There was only one difference in those cases compared to this case: those entitled to bond hearings were United States citizens.
The United States has consistently valued human decency. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution reads, “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Subjecting Rodriguez, and other immigrants like him, to be detained without a bond hearing goes against this notion. If bond hearings are guaranteed to U.S. citizens in numerous other cases, non-citizens should get those same rights. Citizenship should not take away from the fact that people are still people. Every “person,” regardless of citizenship, should be entitled to the same treatment under the Fifth Amendment.
Jennings v. Rodriguez, 2017-WL-564163 (2017), http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/jennings-v-rodriguez/
Kevin Johnson, No decision in two immigration-enforcement cases, SCOTUSblog (Jun. 26, 2017), http://www.scotusblog.com/2017/06/no-decision-two-immigration-enforcement-cases/
Rodriguez v. Robbins, 804 F.3d 1060 (9th Cir. 2015).