Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Should the Supreme Court resolve the Gitmo Detainee issue?

Supreme Court of the United States Seal
Supreme Court of the United States Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)
Here's what they said in the case of Daniel Benitez, the Man Without a Country I wrote about back in 2004 (see my previous Blog posting):

Supreme Court of the United States

A. Neil CLARK, Field Office Director, Seattle, Washington, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, et al., Petitioners,
Sergio Suarez MARTINEZ.
Daniel Benitez, Petitioner,
Michael Rozos, Field Office Director, Miami, Florida, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

543 U.S. 371 



The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader. See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337, 26 S.Ct. 282, 50 L.Ed. 499.
If an alien is found inadmissible and ordered removed, the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) ordinarily must remove the alien from the country within 90 days. 8 U.S.C. § 1231(a)(1)(A). Here, Martinez, respondent in No. 03–878, and Benitez, petitioner in No. 03–7434, Cuban nationals who are both inadmissible under § 1182, were ordered removed, but were detained beyond the 90–day removal period. Each filed a habeas corpus petition challenging his continued detention. In Martinez's case, the District Court found that removal was not reasonably foreseeable and ordered that Martinez be released under appropriate conditions. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. In Benitez's case, the District Court also accepted that removal would not occur in the foreseeable future, but nonetheless denied the petition. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.


1. Under § 1231(a)(6), the Secretary may detain inadmissible aliens beyond the 90–day removal period, but only for so long as is reasonably necessary to achieve removal. Section 1231(a)(6)'s operative language, “may be detained beyond the removal period,” applies equally to all aliens that are its subject, whether or not those aliens have been admitted to the country. In Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 121 S.Ct. 2491, 150 L.Ed.2d 653, this Court interpreted § 1231(a)(6) to authorize the detention of aliens who have been admitted to the country only as long as “reasonably necessary” to effectuate their removal. Id., at 689, 699, 121 S.Ct. 2491. This interpretation must apply to inadmissible**719 aliens as well. Even if the statutory purpose and constitutional concerns influencing the Zadvydas construction are not present for inadmissible aliens, that cannot justify giving the same statutory text a different meaning depending on the characteristics of the aliens involved. Crowell v. Benson, 285 U.S. 22, 52 S.Ct. 285, 76 L.Ed. 598, Raygor v. Regents of Univ. of Minn., 534 U.S. 533, 122 S.Ct. 999, 152 L.Ed.2d 27, and *372 Jinks v. Richland County, 538 U.S. 456, 123 S.Ct. 1667, 155 L.Ed.2d 631, distinguished. Moreover, contrary to the Government's argument, nothing in Zadvydas indicates that § 1231(a)(6) authorizes detention until it approaches constitutional limits. Nor does § 1182(d)(5) independently authorize continued detention of these aliens. Pp. 722–727.

2. In Zadvydas, the Court further held that the presumptive period during which an alien's detention is reasonably necessary to effectuate removal is six months, and that he must be conditionally released after that time if he can demonstrate that there is “no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future.” 533 U.S., at 701, 121 S.Ct. 2491. The Government having suggested no reason that the time reasonably necessary for removal is longer for an inadmissible alien, this same 6–month presumptive detention period applies in these cases. Because both Martinez and Benitez were detained well beyond six months after their removal orders became final, the Government has brought forward nothing to indicate that a substantial likelihood of removal subsists, and the District Court in each case has determined that removal to Cuba is not reasonably foreseeable, the habeas petitions should have been granted. P. 727.

No. 03–878, affirmed; No. 03–7434, 337 F.3d 1289, reversed; and both cases remanded.

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