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Law School Case Brief

Reno v. Flores - 507 U.S. 292, 113 S. Ct. 1439 (1993)


The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments' guarantee of "due process of law" includes a substantive component, which forbids the government to infringe certain "fundamental" liberty interests at all, no matter what process is provided, unless the infringement is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. "Substantive due process" analysis must begin with a careful description of the asserted right, for the doctrine of judicial self-restraint requires the Supreme Court of the United States to exercise the utmost care whenever the Court is asked to break new ground in this field. 


Respondents Jenny Lisette Flores and others were a class of alien juveniles arrested by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) on suspicion of being deportable. They were then detained pending deportation hearings pursuant to a regulation, promulgated in 1988 and codified at 8 C.F.R. § 242.24, which provided for the release of detained minors only to their parents, close relatives, or legal guardians, except in unusual and compelling circumstances. Pursuant to § 242.24, an immigration judge was to review the initial deportability and custody determinations upon request by the juvenile. In July 1895, respondents filed an action federal district court challenging the release policy and the conditions of the juveniles' detention; respondents were later granted class certification. In accordance with a consent decree in the action, juveniles who were not released had to be placed in juvenile care facilities that met or exceeded state licensing requirements for the provision of services to dependent children. In their challenge to § 242.24, respondents contended that they had a right under the Constitution and immigration laws to be released routinely into the custody of other "responsible adults." The district court invalidated the regulatory scheme on unspecified due process grounds, ordering that "responsible adult parties" be added to the list of persons to whom a juvenile must be released and requiring that a hearing before an immigration judge be held automatically, whether or not the juvenile requested it. A federal appellate court affirmed. Petitioners, the Attorney General of the United States and others, were granted a writ of certiorari.


Was it proper for the court to invalidate the regulatory scheme?




The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the lower courts' decisions and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court ruled that regulation 242.24, on its face, did not violate the Due Process Clause in that § 242.24 did not deprive respondents of "substantive due process." The regulation was rationally connected to the government's interest in preserving and promoting the welfare of detained juveniles. Moreover, existing INS procedures provided alien juveniles with "procedural due process." In the context of respondents' facial challenge to the regulation, it was sufficient that § 242.24 provided the right to review by an immigration judge of initial deportability and custody determinations. Individualized and automatic reviews thus were not required. Finally, the court ruled, the regulation did not exceed the scope of the Attorney General's discretion to continue custody over arrested aliens under 8 U.S.C.S. § 1252(a)(1).

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