Jennings v. Rodriguez,
583 U.S. ___ (2018)

Annotate this Case
Justia Opinion Summary

After a 2004 conviction, Rodriguez, a Mexican citizen and a lawful U.S. permanent resident, was detained under 8 U.S.C. 1226 while the government sought his removal. In 2007, Rodriguez sought habeas relief, claiming that he was entitled to a bond hearing to determine whether his continued detention was justified, alleging that 8 U.S.C. 1225(b), 1226(a), and 1226(c) do not authorize “prolonged” detention without an individualized bond hearing at which the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that detention remains justified. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the entry of an injunction. The Supreme Court reversed; the sections do not give detained aliens the right to periodic bond hearings. “Read most naturally,” sections 1225(b)(1) and (b)(2) mandate detention of applicants for admission until immigration officers have finished considering the asylum application or until removal proceedings have concluded, without imposing a time limit or reference to bond hearings. There is a specific provision authorizing temporary parole “for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit,” implying that there are no other circumstances under which section 1225(b) detainees may be released. Section 1226(c)’s language allows aliens to be released “only if ” the Attorney General decides that certain conditions are met. Nothing in the section supports the imposition of periodic bond hearings nor does it hint that the length of detention before the bond hearing must be considered in determining whether an alien should be released. On remand, the Ninth Circuit should consider the merits of Rodriguez’s constitutional arguments in the first instance.

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321 .

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

Jennings et al. v. Rodriguez et al., individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 15–1204. Argued November 30, 2016—Reargued October 3, 2017—Decided February 27, 2018

Immigration officials are authorized to detain certain aliens in the course of immigration proceedings while they determine whether those aliens may be lawfully present in the country. For example, §1225(b) of Title 8 of the U. S. Code authorizes the detention of certain aliens seeking to enter the country. Section 1225(b)(1) applies to aliens initially determined to be inadmissible due to fraud, misrepresentation, or lack of valid documentation, and to certain other aliens designated by the Attorney General in his discretion. Section 1225(b)(2) is a catchall provision that applies to most other applicants for admission not covered by §1225(b)(1). Under §1225(b)(1), aliens are normally ordered removed “without further hearing or review,” §1225(b)(1)(A)(i), but an alien indicating either an intention to apply for asylum or a credible fear of persecution, §1225(b)(1)(A)(ii), “shall be detained” while that alien’s asylum application is pending, §1225(b)(1)(B)(ii). Aliens covered by §1225(b)(2) in turn “shall be detained for a [removal] proceeding” if an immigration officer “determines that [they are] not clearly and beyond a doubt entitled” to admission. §1225(b)(2)(A).

The Government is also authorized to detain certain aliens already in the country. Section 1226(a)’s default rule permits the Attorney General to issue warrants for the arrest and detention of these aliens pending the outcome of their removal proceedings. The Attorney General “may release” these aliens on bond, “[e]xcept as provided in subsection (c) of this section.” Section 1226(c) in turn states that the Attorney General “shall take into custody any alien” who falls into one of the enumerated categories involving criminal offenses and terrorist activities, §1226(c)(1), and specifies that the Attorney General “may release” one of those aliens “only if the Attorney General decides” both that doing so is necessary for witness-protection purposes and that the alien will not pose a danger or flight risk, §1226(c)(2).

After a 2004 conviction, respondent Alejandro Rodriguez, a Mexican citizen and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was detained pursuant to §1226 while the Government sought to remove him. In May 2007, while still litigating his removal, Rodriguez filed a habeas petition, claiming that he was entitled to a bond hearing to determine whether his continued detention was justified. As relevant here, he and the class of aliens he represents allege that §§1225(b), 1226(a), and 1226(c) do not authorize “prolonged” detention in the absence of an individualized bond hearing at which the Government proves by clear and convincing evidence that detention remains justified. The District Court entered a permanent injunction, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Relying on the canon of constitutional avoidance, the Ninth Circuit construed §§1225(b) and 1226(c) as imposing an implicit 6-month time limit on an alien’s detention under those sections. After that point, the court held, the Government may continue to detain the alien only under the authority of §1226(a). The court then construed §1226(a) to mean that an alien must be given a bond hearing every six months and that detention beyond the initial 6-month period is permitted only if the Government proves by clear and convincing evidence that further detention is justified.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

804 F. 3d 1060, reversed and remanded.

Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II, concluding that §§1225(b), 1226(a), and 1226(c) do not give detained aliens the right to periodic bond hearings during the course of their detention. The Ninth Circuit misapplied the canon of constitutional avoidance in holding otherwise. Pp. 12–31.

(a) The canon of constitutional avoidance “comes into play only when, after the application of ordinary textual analysis, the statute is found to be susceptible of more than one [plausible] construction.” Clark v. Martinez, 543 U. S. 371 . The Ninth Circuit’s interpretations of the provisions at issue, however, are implausible. Pp. 12–13.

(b) Read most naturally, §§1225(b)(1) and (b)(2) mandate detention of applicants for admission until certain proceedings have concluded. Until that point, nothing in the statutory text imposes a limit on the length of detention, and neither provision says anything about bond hearings. Pp. 13–19.

(1) Nothing in the text of §1225(b)(1) or §1225(b)(2) hints that those provisions have an implicit 6-month time limit on the length of detention. Respondents must show that this is a plausible reading in order to prevail under the canon of constitutional avoidance, but they simply invoke the canon without making any attempt to defend their reading.

The Ninth Circuit also all but ignored the statutory text, relying instead on Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U. S. 678 , as authority for grafting a time limit onto §1225(b)’s text. There, this Court invoked the constitutional-avoidance canon, construing §1231(a)(6)—which provides than an alien subject to a removal order “may be detained” beyond the section’s 90-day removal period—to mean that the alien may not be detained beyond “a period reasonably necessary to secure removal,” id., at 699, presumptively six months, id., at 701. The Court detected ambiguity in the statutory phrase “may be detained” and noted the absence of any explicit statutory limit on the length of permissible detention following the entry of an order of removal.

Several material differences distinguish the provisions at issue in this case from Zadvydas’s interpretation of §1231(a)(6). To start, the provisions here, unlike §1231(a)(6), mandate detention for a specified period of time: until immigration officers have finished “consider[ing]” the asylum application, §1225(b)(1)(B)(ii), or until removal proceedings have concluded, §1225(b)(2)(A). Section 1231(a)(6) also uses the ambiguous “may,” while §§1225(b)(1) and (b)(2) use the unequivocal mandate “shall be detained.” There is also a specific provision authorizing temporary parole from §1225(b) detention “for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit,” §1182(d)(5)(A), but no similar release provision applies to §1231(a)(6). That express exception implies that there are no other circumstances under which aliens detained under §1225(b) may be released. Pp. 14–17.

(2) Respondents also claim that the term “for” in §§1225(b)(1) and (b)(2) mandates detention only until the start of applicable proceedings. That is inconsistent with the meanings of “for”—“[d]uring [or] throughout,” 6 Oxford English Dictionary 26, and “with the object or purpose of,” id., at 23—that make sense in the context of the statutory scheme as a whole. Nor does respondents’ reading align with the historical use of “for” in §1225. Pp. 17–19.

(c) Section 1226(c)’s language is even clearer. By allowing aliens to be released “only if” the Attorney General decides that certain conditions are met, that provision reinforces the conclusion that aliens detained under its authority are not entitled to be released under any circumstances other than those expressly recognized by the statute. Together with §1226(a), §1226(c) makes clear that detention of aliens within its scope must continue “pending a decision” on removal. Section 1226(c) is thus not silent as to the length of detention. See Demore v. Kim, 538 U. S. 510 . The provision, by expressly stating that covered aliens may be released “only if” certain conditions are met, also unequivocally imposes an affirmative prohibition on releasing them under any other conditions. Finally, because §1226(c) and the PATRIOT Act apply to different categories of aliens in different ways, adopting §1226(c)’s plain meaning will not make any part of the PATRIOT Act, see §1226a(a)(3), superfluous. Pp. 19–22.

(d) Nothing in §1226(a), which authorizes the Attorney General to arrest and detain an alien “pending a decision” on removal and which permits the Attorney General to release the alien on bond, supports the imposition of periodic bond hearings every six months in which the Attorney General must prove by clear and convincing evidence that continued detention is necessary. Nor does it hint that the length of detention prior to the bond hearing must be considered in determining whether an alien should be released. Pp. 22–23.

(e) The Ninth Circuit should consider the merits of respondents’ constitutional arguments in the first instance. But before doing so, it should also reexamine whether respondents can continue litigating their claims as a class. Pp. 29–31.

Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II. Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, J., joined that opinion in full; Thomas and Gorsuch, JJ., joined as to all but Part II; and Sotomayor, J., joined as to Part III–C. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Gorsuch, J., joined except for footnote 6. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Kagan, J., took no part in the decision of the case.

Primary Holding

Statutory provisions allowing the detention of certain aliens during immigration proceedings do not require periodic bond hearings nor do they impose time limits on detention.

Disclaimer: Justia Annotations is a forum for attorneys to summarize, comment on, and analyze case law published on our site. Justia makes no guarantees or warranties that the annotations are accurate or reflect the current state of law, and no annotation is intended to be, nor should it be construed as, legal advice. Contacting Justia or any attorney through this site, via web form, email, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Disclaimer: Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.