Yesterday the Supreme Court rightly slapped down a ridiculous legal challenge that was clearly designed to weaken the distinction between citizens and noncitizens under the law. The Ninth Circuit (or Circus) Court of Appeals (of course) had previously ruled in favor of the challenge by the ACLU.
Further, the Supreme Court correctly ruled on the actual content of the law as written by Congress, rather than imposing their interpretation of the “intent” of the law.
Thanks to President Trump for appointing two Justices who follow the law rather than designing it!Facts of the case:
Three lawful permanent residents filed a class action for habeas relief in the US District Court for the Northern District of California when immigration authorities took them into custody and detained them without bond hearings years after they had been released from serving criminal sentences for offenses that could lead to removal. The plaintiffs’ position was that they were not detained “when . . . released” from criminal custody, and thus were not subject to mandatory detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c).
Does a noncitizen released from criminal custody become exempt from mandatory detention under 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c) if, after the noncitizen is released from criminal custody, the Department of Homeland Security does not take the noncitizen into immigration custody immediately?
On Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Trump administration in Nielsen v. Preap, allowing the Department of Homeland Security to detain illegal aliens without bond while awaiting deportation for committing crimes within our borders. The decision reversed a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. It was authored by Justice Samuel Alito, who was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts as well as Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. The ruling involved a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of various resident aliens, including a few with Green Cards, convicted of crimes for which U.S. law mandates deportation…
Instead of demonstrating that the statute supports their argument, they [the ACLU] attempt to muddle the plain text of the statute, as well as its relevant provision, by reinventing the rules of English grammar. Alito calls them out thus:
Respondents contend that an adverb can “describe” a person even though it cannot modify the noun used to denote that person, but this Court’s interpretation is not dependent on a rule of grammar.… The grammar merely complements what is conclusive here: the meaning of “described” as it appears in §1226(c)(2).… That is the relevant definition…
The basic point Alito is making here is that the text of the statute means what it says, and no amount of grammatical Jiu Jitsu will change that meaning. He goes on to point out that, even if the ACLU’s “when… released” argument could be justified by the actual text of the law, it would by no means relieve the Department of Homeland Security of its duty to arrest the offender:
Or more precisely, a statutory rule that officials “‘shall’ act within a specified time” does not by itself “preclud[e] action later.”
Not all the justices took this view, of course. The position of the minority was laid out in a dissent written by Justice Stephen Breyer, who focused on the rights of the aliens impacted by Tuesday’s ruling. He placed particular emphasis on depriving any “person” of “liberty” without “due process of law.” But, while noncitizens do have some constitutional rights, they don’t enjoy all the rights of U.S. citizens. And they are certainly subject to our immigration laws. Breyer nonetheless opined that the Court should have given far more consideration to the basic promises that America’s legal system has long made to all “persons.”
One could hardly ask for a better example of what’s wrong with liberal jurisprudence. It isn’t the Supreme Court’s job to reflect on the “likely intent” of Congress. The justices can determine the intent of that body by reading the words our representatives put in the laws Congress passes. The intent of the Immigration and Nationality Act can be found in its text. This is why every conservative in the nation should be grateful for the outcome of 2016. Donald Trump is the reason Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are on the Court. Imagine how Nielsen v. Preap would have been decided if SCOTUS had been dominated by people who think like Breyer.