Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh may end up not agreeing on whether federal law requires authorities to detain — without a bond hearing — those legally in the U.S. who have committed certain crimes that make them eligible for deportation.
It appeared during oral arguments Wednesday that President Trump’s two nominees to the Supreme Court might play key roles in deciding the rights of some immigrants to challenge their detention during deportation hearings, reports the Washington Post. It wasn’t clear that they would arrive at the same conclusion. The question was whether federal law requires authorities to detain — without a bond hearing — those legally in the U.S. who have committed certain crimes that make them eligible for deportation. Soe immigrants had been in the U.S. for years without incident after completing their jail terms. They were picked up and held in detention without a chance for release while fighting the deportation orders.
Justice Neil Gorsuch seemed concerned that the law gave federal officials too much power to bring in such people even decades after they had completed sentences for what could be somewhat minor crimes. “Is there any limit on the government’s power?” Gorsuch asked Justice Department lawyer Zachary Tripp. Justice Brett Kavanaugh said there might be a reason for the court not to impose a time constraint on the government. “Congress knew it wouldn’t be immediate, and yet Congress did not put in a time limit,” Kavanaugh told Cecillia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union, representing a class of people who had been detained. “That raises a real question for me whether we should be superimposing a time limit into the statute when Congress, at least as I read it, did not itself do so.” As is often the case, the justices were debating what lower courts have found to be ambiguous wording in a federal statute. It says the attorney general “shall take into custody any alien” who has committed certain offenses “when the alien is released.”