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High Court Rules Against Indefinite Detention of Mariel Cubans

The Supreme Court today issued an important decision upholding the rights of immigrants who have been ordered excluded from the U.S. but whose home country won't take them back. It rejected the Government's arguments that it could detain them indefinitely. The ACLU, which filed an amicus in the case, has more:

The Supreme Court today ruled 7-2 that the government violated the law by indefinitely detaining “Mariel” Cubans who cannot be deported because Cuba will not allow their return.

“Once again, the Court has rebuked the administration for claiming the authority to indefinitely imprison immigrants,” said Judy Rabinovitz, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project and an author of the ACLU’s friend-of-the-court brief who has successfully argued against such policies in the lower courts. “Today’s ruling is a vindication of the ACLU’s position that the government has been violating immigrants’ rights in disregard of the Supreme Court’s 2001 decision prohibiting indefinite detention.”

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  • I have a question regarding today's decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court in terms of how a federal inmate who is no longer on his direct appeal, and in light of the stringent AEDPA time and limited filing restrictions for Habeas relief, may receive relief from his clearly unconstitutional sentence. I have numerous friends in the federal prison system serving extreme sentences where these men went to trial and the government instructed the jury that they did not need to be concerned of drug type and/or quantity but merely make a finding beyond a reasonable doubt as to whether or not the defendant possessed a "measurable quantity of a controlled substance" with the intent to distribute. With such a low threshold of a burden of proof these men were convicted of crimes that could have carried a range of anywhere from less than a year to LIFE in prison - depending on the quantity and type of drugs they were ultimately held responsible for by the court under a preponderance standard. These cases are truly travesties of justice. Certainly these men deserved to go to prison - but not for the 20-30 year sentences they are serving. I know a lot about the law - but I do not know how to get these men back into court to receive relief under these new cases, which clearly demonstrate that their sentences are unconstitutional. If anyone can help me get them relief or at least point me in the right direction PLEASE advise. Feel free to call me at 316-265-2830. Thank you very much... Terry Brown

    Re: High Court Rules Against Indefinite Detention (none / 0) (#2)
    by jimcee on Wed Jan 12, 2005 at 03:55:51 PM EST
    Well I guess it is time for the US to release the detrius of Fidel's asylums and prison onto the streets of the US. Or maybe onto the streets of that Fidelista Chavez's Venezuela or perhaps just put them back in the boats that they arrived in and cast them off in the sea.

    Re: High Court Rules Against Indefinite Detention (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mary on Wed Jan 12, 2005 at 04:01:29 PM EST
    Somehow I doubt that the Bush Administration cares what the Supremes think on these issues. What if the ruling is ignored and the people are not released? Will anyone be held accountable? By whom?

    This case has been roiling around in the courts since the Carter years so it is rather disingenuous to blame the Bushies solely for the treatment of these people. Administrations both Republican and Democratic have argued against their release in the courts on the grounds that they are a threat to the public at large. Perhaps we could return the favor to Castro and send some of our nastiest prisoners to Cuba and refuse to let him send them back.

    I wonder who'll be held responsible if these people are released in the US and they commit a heinous crime? Bush? Castro? Carter? Reagan? Clinton? The ACLU? or the Supreme Court Justices? Somehow it will be only Bush to some folks. All in all this is a tough call for anyone to make.

    Re: High Court Rules Against Indefinite Detention (none / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Thu Jan 13, 2005 at 07:17:16 AM EST
    "indefinite detention" shouldn't be in the vocabulary of a free society. I don't doubt some of these Cubans are bad dudes, but you can't lock people up "indefinitely" and still claim to be a free society.

    LoL...What were those disgustingly liberal, left wing commie justices thinking??? Why can't we get some REAL conservative justices who know how to deal with these dirty foreigners??

    Unclear whether the other Supreme Court decision today will change the Mariel Cubans' situation. That decision seems to allow the US to remove aliens regardless of whether that country's government has accepted the aliens, or even where there is no such government. The US might be able to send em to Gitmo and let em out the side door.

    Has anyone seen "The Terminal" Maybe we could just drop them off at JFK Airport?

    The question remains: Who will make sure the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will comply with the law? The recent Mariel ruling was based on the court's 2001 ruling in Zadvydas v. Davis that the government could not detain certain legal immigrants indefinitely, but a May 2004 study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the immigration service has failed to comply fully with that ruling. Some 2000 immigrants effected by the new ruling are scattered in jails and prisons around the country. Congress must immediately establish an independent body to ensure that ICE complies with the new -- and old -- laws.

    Mark is correct. A Florida paper reports that 700 Cubans are eligible for release. But ICE hasn't decided on a procedure. How long will it take them?
    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesperson Manny Van Pelt said the agency had not decided yet on a procedure for dealing with the releases called for by the Supreme Court.
    For other readers, Mark is the author of American Gulag, , a Look Inside America's Immigration Prisons.