“Better late than never.”
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of President Donald Trump’s administration Tuesday, deciding federal officials can detain immigrants for possible deportation after they have served time for other crimes.
The ruling, which was a narrow 5-4 decision down ideological lines, reverses a previous decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In that ruling, the lower court said federal authorities had to detain the immigrants in question immediately or they would be exempt from future detainments.
Justice Samuel Alito was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh in the majority opinion. Justices Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.
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At issue was the case of immigrants Mony Preap and Bassam Yusuf Khoury. While both were legal US residents, they were detained by federal authorities for deportation proceedings years after serving time for criminal convictions.
Lawyers for the two immigrants argued that a federal law that allows the Department of Homeland Security to detain immigrants convicted of certain crimes “when the alien is released” from custody did not apply to his clients. Instead, they argued, that law only applied when an immigrant is detained immediately upon release from custody.
According to the 2016 ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the word “when” in the law’s language “conveys immediacy,” and detention has to occur promptly upon the immigrant’s release from custody.
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But the Supreme Court sided with the Trump administration’s argument that the government can detain immigrants while they wait for deportation proceedings, even if the detention comes years after serving jail sentences.
Writing for the majority, Justice Alito took aim at the plaintiffs argument that their detention had to be immediate.
“As we have held time and again, an official’s crucial duties are better carried out late than never,” Alito said.
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The ruling was seen as a major victory by many hardline immigration advocates, such as conservative actor James Woods, who celebrated the decision on Twitter.
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) March 19, 2019
“The Democrats will fight tooth and nail to destroy us, but this administration will fight harder,” Woods tweeted.
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