The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that undocumented immigrants who have already been deported but who sneak back into the country and claim the need for special protections from removal can be held in custody while the Department of Homeland Security settles those claims, dealing a blow to activists who said the migrants should be freed while they await a decision.
The 6-3 decision turned on the intricacies of immigration law.
Normally, migrants already deported can be immediately ousted from the U.S. The only exception is if they express a fear of persecution or harm if sent back home. In that case, they apply for “withholding of removal” and the government evaluates their claim.
One section of immigration law suggests that migrants facing deportation can ask for a bond hearing before an immigration judge. But another section of law that applies to cases in which someone has been deported and has sneaked back in does not envision a bond hearing, at least during an initial 90-day holding period.
The court’s Republican-appointed justices said the latter provision controlled the situation.
Justice Samuel A. Alito, writing the majority opinion, said Congress had “obvious” reasons to make a distinction for undocumented immigrants who have already been deported: They’re more likely to abscond.
“In addition,” he wrote, “aliens who reentered the country illegally after removal have demonstrated a willingness to violate the terms of a removal order, and they therefore may be less likely to comply with the reinstated order.”
Writing in dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer said he thought another part of federal law should control the plight of undocumented immigrants who fear being sent back home. And that part of law would allow a bond hearing, he said.
“This restriction on removal when an alien fears persecution or torture embodies an important international legal obligation that the United States has undertaken,” Justice Breyer wrote, joined by the court’s two other Democratic appointees.
Tuesday’s ruling overturned decisions by district and appeals courts.
The case is Johnson v. Guzman.
It was argued under the purview of the Trump administration before the Biden administration took over.
Justices side with pipeline company in land dispute
The Supreme Court also on Tuesday sided with a pipeline company in a dispute with New Jersey over land the company needs for a natural gas pipeline.
Liberal and conservative justices joined to rule 5-4 for the PennEast Pipeline Co., the Associated Press reported. The 116-mile planned pipeline is to run from Luzerne County in Pennsylvania to Mercer County in New Jersey.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had allowed the company’s project to move forward in 2018 by granting PennEast a “certificate of public convenience and necessity,” but lawsuits followed.
The company took New Jersey to court to acquire state-controlled land for its project. PennEast argued the commission’s approval of its project allowed it to take New Jersey to court and to use eminent domain to acquire state-controlled properties. The Supreme Court agreed.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority that when FERC issues a certificate of public convenience and necessity, federal law authorizes the certificate’s holder “to condemn all necessary rights-of-way, whether owned by private parties or states.”
Chief Justice Roberts was joined by conservative Justices Alito and Brett M. Kavanaugh and liberal Justices Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
The decision from the high court doesn’t end litigation over the pipeline. A separate challenge is in a federal appeals court in Washington.
• This article is based in part on wire-service reports.