Jennings v. Rodriguez, No. 15–1204, decided February 27, 2018:

Immigration officials are authorized to detain certain aliens in the course of immigration proceedings while they determine whether those aliens may be lawfully present in the country. For example,§1225(b) of Title 8 of the U. S. Code authorizes the detention of certain aliens seeking to enter the country. Section 1225(b)(1) applies to aliens initially determined to be inadmissible due to fraud, misrepresentation,or lack of valid documentation, and to certain other aliens designated by the Attorney General in his discretion. Section 1225(b)(2) is a catchall provision that applies to most other applicants for admission not covered by §1225(b)(1). Under §1225(b)(1),aliens are normally ordered removed “without further hearing or review,”§1225(b)(1)(A)(i), but an alien indicating either an intention to apply for asylum or a credible fear of persecution, §1225(b)(1)(A)(ii),“shall be detained” while that alien’s asylum application is pending,§1225(b)(1)(B)(ii). Aliens covered by §1225(b)(2) in turn “shall be detained for a [removal] proceeding” if an immigration officer “determines that [they are] not clearly and beyond a doubt entitled” to admission.§1225(b)(2)(A).

The Government is also authorized to detain certain aliens already in the country. Section 1226(a)’s default rule permits the Attorney General to issue warrants for the arrest and detention of these alien spending the outcome of their removal proceedings. The Attorney General “may release” these aliens on bond, “[e]xcept as provided in subsection (c) of this section.” Section 1226(c) in turn states that the Attorney General “shall take into custody any alien” who falls into one of the enumerated categories involving criminal offenses and terrorist activities, §1226(c)(1), and specifies that the Attorney General“may release” one of those aliens “only if the Attorney General decides”both that doing so is necessary for witness-protection purposes and that the alien will not pose a danger or flight risk, §1226(c)(2).

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. As relevant here, he and the class of aliens he represents allege that§§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. After that point, the court held, the Government may continue to detain the alien only under the authority of §1226(a). The court then 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.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded.

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