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Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Government’s Authority to Detain Immigrants

Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security, ET AL. v. Preap ET AL.


On March 19, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government’s authority to detain immigrants at any time after their release from local or state custody — including individuals that have already completed prison terms — for criminal convictions potentially years ago.

The 5-4 ruling allows government officials to detain previously convicted immigrants indefinitely and at any time without a bond hearing. The government can lawfully detain convicted immigrants when they are released from criminal detention. Immigrant advocates argued that the language of the statute should only apply immediately after an immigrant is released rather than at any time. The Court, however, found in favor of the current administration’s interpretation of the statute and held that immigrant can be mandatorily detained at any time when they are released from criminal detention. Justice Alito, speaking for the Court stated, “That is so because, as we have held time and again, an official’s crucial duties are better carried out late than never.”[1]

The Court’s four liberal Justices disagreed with the majority. Justice Breyer argued that the government should not be allowed to apprehend persons years after their release from prison and hold them indefinitely without a bond hearing. Breyer added, “I fear that the Court’s contrary interpretation will work serious harm to the principles for which American law has long stood.”[2]

“It is another blow to immigrants and another issue immigrants have to be aware of when they step into a criminal court room,” said Conrad Pollack, managing partner and head of immigration department at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP.


Who is Subject to Ruling?

The ruling applies to individuals who are subject to mandatory detention under 8 U.S.C. Section 1226(c), Detention of Criminal Aliens.


Legal Options for Detained Immigrants

Government officials can detain individuals who have been convicted of certain criminal offenses indefinitely without parole or bail. While you are ineligible for bond, that does not mean you are ineligible for relief from removal. Detained immigrants may still be able to seek relief from removal while in custody. We encourage you to speak with one of our immigration attorneys right away by calling 212-203-4795.


Contact Our Experienced Deportation Attorneys

At Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP, our U.S. immigration and deportation attorneys are dedicated to providing the most important immigration news that will raise awareness and help educate the public on recent changes in immigration law. If you or a loved one has been negatively affected by the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling, we urge you to contact our firm to speak with a lawyer right away. Please call us at 212-203-4795 or contact us online.


[1] Nielsen v. Preap, No. 16-1363, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 2088, at 27 (Mar. 19, 2019).

[2] Id. at 73-74.


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