U.S. immigration authorities cannot indefinitely detain illegal aliens convicted of crimes in this country who have completed their prison sentences, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday in a 7-2 decision.
“The government fears that the security of our borders will be compromised if it must release into the country inadmissible aliens who cannot be removed,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion. “If that is so, Congress can attend to it.
“But for this court to sanction indefinite detention . . . would establish within our jurisprudence, beyond the power of Congress to remedy, the dangerous principle that judges can give the same statutory text different meanings in different cases,” Justice Scalia said.
In a separate decision, the high court said the United States could order an alien deported to his native country even if that country refuses to take them back. More than 8,000 Somalis being held in the United States are subject to deportation or are awaiting hearings.
Justice Scalia wrote that Congress intended that immigrants be deported without a country’s permission, and if the Somalis nationals fear retribution at home, they had other remedies for relief, including applying for asylum. He was joined by Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices O’Connor, Kennedy and Thomas.
Justices Souter, Stevens, Ginsburg and Breyer dissented, saying the statute allows the Somalis to stay.