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SCOTUS To Consider Virginia Immigration Case on Bond Eligibility

Supreme court building
The entry of the U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo: Whittney Evans/VPM News)

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in an immigration case that originated in Virginia. 

The court will decide whether immigrants who illegally entered the country seeking asylum-like protections -- after having already been deported previously -- can ask to be released on bond while they fight their case. 

The issue of which immigrants held in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are eligible for bond is complicated, but repeat offenders are not on that list. 

The Legal Aid Justice Center filed a federal lawsuit in 2017 requesting that five individuals in Virginia -- who re-entered the country -- be released on bond. They won that case in U.S. District Court, and later, in a class action lawsuit which ICE appealed to the 4th Circuit. Now it’s headed to the nation’s highest court. 

Many undocumented immigrants who enter the U.S. illegally apply for asylum, claiming they face severe persecution in their home country. If their claims are denied and they are deported, they often return to the United States to seek protection again, applying for an asylum alternative called “withholding of removal.” 

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg with the Legal Aid Justice Center said thousands of immigrants across the country are waiting behind bars for this decision.  

“Our contention in this case is that at least for some of them who’ve sort of passed an initial screening interview, to show that they have a good faith claim to protection in this country, that they should be allowed to request, in front of a judge, the opportunity to be released on bond while they’re fighting out their case,” he said. 

This is the last immigration case before SCOTUS during the Trump administration. 

Jacob Tingen, an adjunct law professor at the University of Richmond and head attorney at Tingen and Williams in Richmond said the case is wonky but vital.

“When you’re as close to the immigration process as I am, you realize how it is rife with unfairness for those who are potentially going to be removed from the country,” Tingen said.

And he pointed out that because immigration violations are civil violations, not criminal violations, most of these detainees are not a danger to the community. 

“Why are we holding on to these people, except to punish them in the same way that separating families was a punishment at the border? This is just more of the same.”

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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