Newly seated Justice Brett Kavanaugh spoke up Wednesday in defense of the Trump administration’s view that legal immigrants with criminal records must be arrested and held for deportation, even years after they were convicted and completed their sentences.
At issue is a federal law that calls for mandatory detention and possible deportation for “criminal aliens,” including legal immigrants convicted of crimes ranging from violent felonies to simple drug possession. The law says the Homeland Security secretary “shall take into custody any alien” with a criminal record that could lead to deportation “when the alien is released.”
The debate focuses on when, exactly, is when.
In a class-action suit brought in California, lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union complained the mandatory detention policy has been applied to lawful immigrants who had lived and worked in the community for decades after being convicted of misdemeanors such as drug possession charges.
The administration argues that a provision of the 1996 law calls for arresting and jailing such immigrants despite their good records since serving their time.
Kavanaugh disputed the ACLU’s contention that this mandatory detention rule applies only to immigrants who can be detained at the time they are being released from local jails or state prisons, not to those released years ago. “Congress did not put in a time limit,” he said. “That raises a real question with me whether we should be superimposing a time limit.”