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Supreme Court Rules on Detention of Criminal Aliens

Congress has provided that the government must detain aliens convicted of certain crimes immediately upon their release from prison or jail and hold them for the duration of their deportation/removal proceedings. The exact terms have varied over this law's long history, traced in CJLF's amicus brief, but the basic idea has remained.

In today's decision in Nielsen v. Preap, the Supreme Court reviewed a remarkable decision of the Ninth Circuit. That court interpreted the law to say that the no-release provision only applied if the alien was taken into federal custody immediately. If, for example, he was out for a day because DHS didn't know when he would be released due to a state's "sanctuary" policy, then release came under a different, more lenient provision. 

Such a nonsensical result would require very clear language in the statute. It simply makes no sense that release would depend on such a happenstance. The language does not, in fact, require such nonsense.

Justices Thomas and Gorsuch dissent on a jurisdictional question, so a portion of Justice Alito's opinion on that point is a plurality. The substantive portion is the opinion of the Court.

Update:  Here's how the Los Angeles Times reporter David Savage covered the decision. The WSJ has this article by Jess Bravin and this editorial.

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