By allowing aliens to be released only if the United States Attorney General decides that certain conditions are met, 8 U.S.C.S. § 1226(c) reinforces the conclusion that aliens detained under its authority are not entitled to be released under any circumstances other than those expressly recognized by the statute. And together with 8 U.S.C.S. § 1226(a), § 1226(c) makes clear that detention of aliens within its scope must continue pending a decision on whether the alien is to be removed from the United States.
After a 2004 conviction, respondent Alejandro Rodriguez, a Mexican citizen and a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was detained pursuant to §1226 while the Government sought to remove him. In May 2007, while still litigating his removal, Rodriguez filed a habeas petition, claiming that he was entitled to a bond hearing to determine whether his continued detention was justified. According to the respondent, §§1225(b), 1226(a), and 1226(c) do not authorize “prolonged” detention in the absence of an individualized bond hearing at which the Government proves by clear and convincing evidence that detention remains justified. The District Court entered a permanent injunction, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Relying on the canon of constitutional avoidance, the Ninth Circuit construed §§1225(b) and 1226(c) as imposing an implicit 6-month time limit on an alien’s detention under those sections. The Ninth Circuit construed §1226(a) to mean that an alien must be given a bond hearing every six months and that detention beyond the initial 6-month period is permitted only if the Government proves by clear and convincing evidence that further detention is justified.
Is a detention beyond the initial 6-month period prohibited, absent the Government’s clear and convincing evidence that continuous detention is justified?
The Court held that §§1225(b), 1226(a), and 1226(c) do not give detained aliens the right to periodic bond hearings during the course of their detention. According to the Court, §§1225(b)(1) and (b)(2) mandate detention of applicants for admission until certain proceedings have concluded, and there was nothing in the statutory text that imposes a limit on the length of detention. Furthermore, the Court determined that neither provision says anything about bond hearings. Moreover, the Court held that nothing in the text of §1225(b)(1) or §1225(b)(2) hints that the afore-cited provisions have an implicit 6-month time limit on the length of detention; the Court ruled that detention is not barred by any time limit, and it may end prior to the conclusion of removal proceedings only if the alien was released for witness-protection purposes. As such, the Court held that the Ninth Circuit Court err in its judgment that detained aliens had a statutory right to periodic bond hearings under the aforementioned provisions.