April 29, 2003


Legal Immigrants Can Be Held Without Bail, Court Says (DAVID STOUT, April 29, 2003, NY Times)
The Supreme Court ruled today, in a case with significant impact on the rights of noncitizens, that the federal government can detain legal immigrants without bail during their deportation proceedings.

The court upheld, 5 to 4, the strict rules of the 1996 immigration law, which mandates detention of immigrants who have committed certain crimes even as those immigrants challenge their deportation.

"Congress regularly makes rules that would be unacceptable if applied to citizens,'' the court said in a summary attached to the opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

The case decided today, Demore v. Kim, No. 01-1491, has been closely followed by immigrants' rights groups and lawyers who follow immigration issues. Today's decision made it clear that immigrants - even those in the United States legally - may have far more to lose than American citizens if they are convicted of crimes, and not necessarily heinous ones.

"We hold that Congress, justifiably concerned that deportable criminal aliens who are not detained continue to engage in crime and fail to appear for their removal hearings in large numbers, may require that persons such as respondent be detained for the brief period necessary for their removal proceedings,'' Justice Rehnquist wrote.

The "respondent'' is Hyung Joon Kim, who came to the United States in 1984 at age 6. While still a child, he became a lawful permanent resident. In 1996, when he was a teenager, he was convicted of burglary and the next year was found guilty of petty theft.

He completed his sentence in California state prison and, the day after his release, was detained by immigration officials without bail to await deportation.

The very first words of the Constitution are, of course: "We the people of the United States..." If you aren't one of "the people" yet, perhaps it would be better to abide by the laws of those who are. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2003 7:20 PM
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