The constitutional slide toward indefinite detentions began long before the Bush administration adopted the practice as protocol in fighting the war on terror. Immigration detainees have often faced prolonged periods of confinement without a hearing on specific charges or the ability to post bond.
That practice may finally end thanks to a federal appeals court ruling that held that detaining immigrants for prolonged periods of time without a bond is unconstitutional.
The ruling came out of the Third Circuit after the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the practice. According to the Court, immigrants may only be detained for a “reasonable” amount of time before a hearing to determine whether their detention is necessary.
It is a common sense ruling that, finally, forces practice to square with constitutional law. There is hardly a belief more foundational to our Bill of Rights than the idea of due process and habeas corpus.
The ruling will immediately affect hundreds of immigration detainees held in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, states that both sit in the Third Circuit but could potentially impact thousands of immigration detainees nationwide. It is a clear victory for those who believe that, regardless of your status in life, the government should not be allowed to imprison you for prolonged periods of time without being forced to justify that detention.
Photo from barnaby via flickr.