Standing Up for Immigrant Rights at the United States Supreme Court

At the beginning of 2022, NWIRP’s legal director Matt Adams presented arguments before the United States Supreme Court in Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez, the latest in a series of cases the Court has taken on the issue of immigration detention. The central issue is whether immigration authorities can incarcerate certain immigrants for prolonged periods without affording them any bond hearing to determine whether their detention is justified. 

The case started as a class action NWIRP filed on behalf of people detained in Washington State who have been previously deported from the U.S. but who have returned, seeking protection from persecution or torture. A federal judge ruled on behalf of our clients in 2017, requiring the federal government to provide them bond hearings after they have been detained for six months. The Trump Administration appealed this ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where our case was consolidated with a similar effort in California by our colleagues at the ACLU. We again prevailed at the Ninth Circuit but the government appealed to the Supreme Court leading to the arguments earlier this month. We are disheartened that the Biden Administration, which promised to repair the damage done to immigrant rights by the previous Administration, has remained on the wrong side of this fight.

The stakes for our clients are very significant as they seek protection from danger in their home countries. Our lead plaintiff Arturo Martinez, was kidnapped by police officers after being deported to Mexico, tortured, and held for ransom. Another named plaintiff, Eduardo Gutierrez, was tortured by gang members because of his sexual orientation.

NWIRP’s Impact Litigation Team (clockwise from top left: Michael Hur, Aaron Korthuis, Leila Kang, Sydney Maltese, Matt Adams, and Margot Adams)

Immigrants in this particular situation have a right under U.S. and international law to apply for protection, but are generally held in immigration detention while their cases are pending. These cases can take years, however, and most community members languish in custody until a final decision is made. Frustratingly, the federal government claims that it has the authority to detain these people indefinitely without the right to have a bond hearing before a judge at any point.

In his opening arguments to the Supreme Court, NWIRP Legal Director Matt Adams said, “It’s a bedrock principle in our legal system that where the government seeks to lock up a human being for a prolonged period, that person is entitled to a hearing before an independent decision maker to determine whether detention is justified.”

We are grateful to lead this effort against arbitrary imprisonment, and to help ensure that liberty remains the norm under our laws. While the Court could issue a ruling soon, we anticipate a decision to be issued in the summer of 2022. We are proud to be representing our clients and defending their rights before the highest tribunal in this country. And we are grateful to count on the support of our partners in the legal team, including our colleagues at the ACLU, Centro Legal de la Raza, Immigrant Legal Defense, Van Der Hout LLP, and Lakin & Wille LLP.