On Monday February 27th, the Supreme Court handed ICE and the Trump Administration a powerful tool to continue their attacks on immigrant communities. In Jennings v. Rodriguez the Court ruled that ICE can detain immigrants indefinitely, withdrawing the right to due process for millions. The decision ensures that people held in immigrant detention facilities no longer have a right to receive bond hearings every six months. This applies to all immigrants, including those without legal status, legal permanent residents, and asylum seekers.
The Court’s decision is one of the biggest legal assaults against immigrant rights in the Trump era. It highlights the institutional commitment to prioritize financial gain in private prisons over the basic human rights of vulnerable people.
In response to this dangerous new precedent, several Migrant Justice leaders and advocates from Orange County issued the following statements:
“The Supreme Court’s decision ensures that more people who are not dangers to the community will be incarcerated in immigration detention. It’s not the end of the battle. The legal fights will continue. But this decision is a setback, and a win for private prison companies who will profit off the tears of immigrants. One day, we will look back and be ashamed.” – Jennifer Koh, Immigration Clinic Director at Western State College of Law.
“The Court’s decision is indicative of this regime’s commitment to maximizing private profit off the backs of immigrant communities. While we continue to be fed a divisive narrative that criminalizes and divides us, folks are being led to believe they aren’t a “priority” or they are a “good immigrant,” and therefore not a risk. Under this racist Administration, everyone is a bad immigrant. The Administration will continue to find ways to dehumanize us and strip us of our rights, starting with our Due Process, as exemplified by this decision. We will step up and push back.” – Erik Garcia, Youth Organizer at Orange County Immigrant Youth United.
“The Supreme Court has effectively handed private prison companies a victory with this ruling. It signals to them that they can continue to profit off the misery of immigrants — indefinitely. The problem is compounded by the fact that the Trump Administration is planning to expand the U.S. immigration detention system.” – Christiana Fialho, Executive Director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement.
“A majority of the Supreme Court thinks that the government can cage people without access to legal process. That’s abhorrent. The government argues that detainees can file habeas petitions in federal court to contest their prolonged detention but that is a resource-intensive and lengthy process. While litigation is essential and the ACLU is the best in the business, ultimately vulnerable people will only be protected when they gain power. It is only through organizing and political solidarity that the rights of people to be free of the enforcement-detention complex will be settled and entrenched.” – Sameer Ashar, Immigrant Rights Clinic Co-Director at UCI Law School.
While the decision was handed down during the Trump Presidency and was heavily advocated for by his Justice Department, it needs to be said that the decision was set into motion by the Obama Administration.
It was President Obama’s Departments of Justice and Homeland Security that refused to voluntarily put in place a system of automatic bond hearings every six months, as mandated by the 9th Circuit Court.
Instead, they litigated the Jennings v. Rodriguez case up to the Supreme Court and set up this opportunity for the conservative majority to eliminate the due process that had been won by the ACLU of Southern California in the Ninth Circuit. The Obama Administration could have settled the case and adopted automatic bond hearings nationwide. Instead, they pursued a legal strategy that won favor at the Supreme Court, and provided the Trump Administration with another potent tool with which to persecute immigrant communities.
As disappointing and as dangerous as the Supreme Court’s decision is, we know from previous fights against immigration detention and deportations, and current fights to defend DACA and TPS, that immigrants form a resilient community. Despite the legal setback in the courts, our power has never come from legal precedents or legislation, but rather from organizing and challenging the White Supremacy power structures head on.
Jennings v. Rodriguez will not change that.