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Supreme Court ruling troubles immigrants with criminal records

A Supreme Court ruling has prompted concern among immigrants and their loved ones in Florida, especially if they are close to someone with a previous criminal conviction. According to the ruling, the government can detain immigrants with prior criminal records, even if years have since followed their release from criminal detention. They can be held in immigration detention without a bond hearing according to the 5-4 decision, split along common political lines.

The case hinged on the question of whether immigrants can be detained without a bond hearing only immediately after their release from criminal custody or if they can be subject to immigration detention without a bond hearing even months or years after they have returned to society. The text of the statute allows for immigration detention “when the alien is released” from criminal custody. A group of legal permanent residents in the United States with prior criminal convictions that could lead to their removal challenged the government’s interpretation that this meant detention could happen any time after a release.

Justice Samuel Alito issued the court’s opinion in the case, saying that the plaintiffs were not owed bond hearings. In addition, Justice Brett Kavanaugh argued that detention in these cases was mandatory and remained so even if the immigrants were not detained immediately upon their release. The four dissenting justices presented their opinion from the bench read by Justice Stephen Breyer, an unusual step. They warned of the increasing power granted by the majority to the government, especially given the importance of the right to liberty and due process of law.

Criminal law and immigration law can intersect in a number of ways. Immigrants who have criminal convictions or who are facing criminal charges may want to consult with an immigration lawyer about how their record could affect their immigration status and future options.