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On March 19, 2019, the Supreme Court decided Nielsen v. Preap (and its companion case Wilcox v. Khoury), both of which consider the extent to which the mandatory detention provision of the Immigration and Naturalization Act applies to defendants who were not arrested by immigration officials immediately upon their release from criminal custody.

Aliens who are arrested in order to be removed from the United States typically can seek release or parole on bond while any dispute about their removability is being resolved.  Title 8 U.S.C. § 1226(c)(1), however, creates an exception: aliens who have committed certain crimes or have a connection to terrorism must be arrested when released from custody relating to their criminal charges, and almost always held without bond until the question of removal is settled.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit interpreted this mandatory detention provision to apply only when the alien is arrested immediately after release from prison.  If a short period of time intervenes, the court concluded, the alien must be allowed the chance to apply for release on bond or parole.

By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court reversed the Ninth Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case.  Respondent aliens who fall within the scope of  § 1226(c)(1), the Court held, can be detained even if federal officials did not arrest them immediately upon release.

Justice Alito announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, III-A, III-B-1, and IV, and an opinion with respect to Parts II and III-B-2, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh joined. Justice Kavanaugh filed a concurring opinion. Justice Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justice Gorsuch joined. Justice Breyer filed a dissenting opinion, in which Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined.

To discuss the case, we have Greg Brower, Shareholder, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Shreck.