Immigration Detention is Never “Presumptively Reasonable”: Strengthening Protections for Immigrants with Final Removal Orders

Immigration detention is a central feature of the United States’ immigration system. Noncitizens facing removal are detained in staggering numbers throughout the removal process, from the initiation of legal proceedings to the issuance of a final removal order. Moreover, as the U.S. government’s reliance upon immigration detention has grown, the Supreme Court has systematically stripped noncitizens of important substantive and procedural protections. This is especially true in the post-removal-order context, where a series of recent decisions have placed more people than ever at risk of prolonged detention without a bond hearing. Three cases in particular—Johnson v. Guzman Chavez (2021), Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez (2022), and Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez (2022)—have increased the likelihood that noncitizens subject to post-removal-order detention will remain incarcerated for months or years, even if they have pending claims for relief. This Note describes each of these three cases and explains how, together, they severely undermine the rights of noncitizens with final removal orders.

This Note further argues that people facing post-removal-order detention should be entitled to rigorous due process protections. Even though detention constitutes a clear deprivation of liberty, the Supreme Court has held that six months of post-removal-order detention is “presumptively reasonable.” This Note criticizes that premise and asserts that no period of immigration detention is presumptively reasonable. In other words, even if the Court had decided Guzman Chavez, Arteaga-Martinez, and Aleman Gonzalez in favor of the noncitizen plaintiffs, the existing framework would still be insufficient to protect immigrants in post-removal-order detention from experiencing protracted and unnecessary trauma. This Note therefore posits that, at minimum, immigrants with final removal orders should receive a bond hearing before an immigration judge at the close of the 90-day mandatory detention period. While more radical solutions like detention abolition are ultimately in order, a 90-day bond hearing requirement would at least provide noncitizens facing post-removal-order detention a meaningful opportunity to secure release from custody.