by Nina Randazzo

Read Mr. Joseph’s and others’ stories of prolonged detention at

The case *Jennings v Rodriguez*, heard by the Supreme Court on October 3rd without a decision, may ultimately decide whether persons held in immigration detention are guaranteed due process. Currently, no such guarantee exists for them, and they may be held in detention for months or even years without a bond hearing.

Jennings v Rodriguez is a challenge to the class action case Rodriguez v Robbins. When the case was first heard in 2007, the plaintiff, Alejandro Rodriguez, had been detained for more than three years without a bond hearing. This case was brought forward by Rodriguez and other immigrants who had been detained for extended periods of time without hearing. Although a district court in California (where Rodriguez was detained) initially ruled that this case could not be brought forward as a class action lawsuit, the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overruled this decision and ruled in 2015 that a bond hearing must be offered every six months for detained persons and that the persons must be released if the government cannot provide clear and convincing evidence of a flight risk or danger to society. Read more about this case here and here.

CIVIC and NYU’s Immigrant Rights Clinic have launched the campaign #BecauseTheyAreFree to uplift the stories of people who have been subjected to, and who have survived and thrived, beyond prolonged immigration detention.

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The challengers to this case, led by David Jennings, argue that the imposition of a six-month rule by the courts is unconstitutional and that the Department of Homeland Security has the right to decide how long it detains any noncitizen.

United States citizens are legally guaranteed a speedy bond hearing and trial because of the threat posed to an individuals’s basic human rights by the possibility of indefinite detainment of a person who has not even been proven guilty. Jennings v Rodriguez could determine whether the same promise of justice and liberty will be granted to non citizens.

As Justice Sotomayor argued in the October 3rd hearing:

“[In] what other area of law have we permitted a government agent on his or her own, without a neutral party looking at the decision, to detain someone indefinitely?”

Nina Randazzo is an immigrant rights advocate and Ph.D. student in Earth Sciences at Stanford University.