On February 27, 2018, the Supreme Court decided the case of Jennings vs. Rodriguez, which was a class action procedural challenge against varied immigration law provisions that allow for detention of illegal immigrants in the U.S.
Who is Rodriguez? Alejandro Rodriquez, the man at the center of this case, is an immigrant from Mexico who came to the U.S. with his parents when he was a year old. At the age of 9, he became a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. As an adult, he worked as a dental assistant to help support his two children. However, he also ran into trouble with the law. When he was 19, he was convicted for joyriding and he was sentenced to two years in prison. At the age of 24, he was convicted of misdemeanor drug possession.
At the time of his second arrest, immigration agents detained him and started the deportation proceedings to deport him back to Mexico. He remained in detention while he fought deportation. Under immigration law, because of his convictions he was subject to the “mandatory detention.” Three years into Rodriguez’s detention, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of both him and a class of immigrants who had been detained in the Los Angeles area. The ACLU argued that the U.S government does not have the right to hold people for more than six months without a bond hearing before an immigration judge who would then determine whether their continued detention is justified.
Rodriguez sat in detention for over three years without ever receiving a bond hearing. During his detention, he lost his dental assistant job and was separated from his two young children. When the ACLU moved to turn his personal lawsuit into a class action case, government officials finally released Rodriguez from their custody. He ultimately was victorious in his immigration case and was able to keep his permanent lawful resident status in the U.S. and avoid deportation back to Mexico.
Lower court decision: The lawsuit was originally filed in 2007 in federal district court in Los Angeles. In this lawsuit, Rodriguez asked for a hearing to determine if his prolonged detention was justified and to represent other similarly situated immigrants in the Central District of California. A district court in California ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to grant a class action.”
Appellate level decision: In April 2008, the ACLU appealed the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit disagreed with the government’s argument and found that the court clearly had the appropriate jurisdiction to allow the lawsuit to go forward as a class action suit.
The case’s fate in the Supreme Court: The Supreme Court first heard oral arguments for this case during its 2016 term and then asked for additional briefing on the topic of the constitutionality of the detention of illegal immigrants. When the 2016 Supreme Court term ended—with the bench being shorthanded after Justice Scalia’s death—the court ordered rearrgument. Given the Trump Administration’s promise to use detention as a form of immigration enforcement, the outcome of this case is relevant and important.
Supreme Court decision: After additional oral arguments and briefing, the Supreme Court finally decided this case on February 27, 2018. In a 5-3 ruling that was considered a defeat for supporters of immigrant rights groups who sought greater procedural protections under the law for non-citizens facing deportation, the Supreme Court held that “a certain class of non-citizens facing deportation are not required to have a bond hearing if they’ve been held in detention for more six months.” However, the Supreme Court “avoided a judgment on whether the Constitution requires such hearings, returning that issue to an appellate court.”
U.S. immigration law and policy is notoriously confusing and changes often. In order to best serve our clients, the skilled immigration lawyers at the Law Office of Eric M. Mark are commited to staying abreast of current events and changes in immigration law. While we cannot guarantee success, working with an experienced immigration attorney will significantly increase your chances of a more favorable outcome.
To schedule your free consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer in Newark, NJ or Jersey City, NJ, contact us online at the Law Office of Eric M. Mark or call (973) 453-2009.