Average Joe SCOTUS: Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez

A long time ago, at a border far far away, Antonio Arteaga-Martinez strolled into the United States from Mexico like he fucking owned the place. Not once, not twice, but a lot of fucking times. Who knows at this point? He apparently couldn’t be bothered with all that immigration jazz.

During one of his border-jumping excursions, he was caught, and sent back to Mexico. But, he’s a persistent mother fucker, so he came back again. At least now, the United States had a record of his ass coming here, and being sent home, though.

Aside from the fact that the United States is just a better place to live than Mexico, his reason for coming here is supposedly that he pissed off a Mexican gang when he was in Mexico as well. He claimed they went after him and his family, beating the fuck out of him and stealing a lot of his shit, including his car. So that’s why he was coming to the United States, because he had to get the fuck outta there.

In 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) found out this dude had crashed our perpetual freedom party again, and were like, “Dude, you gotta go the fuck home. We’ve got rules. Comprende puta?”

But Antonio was like, “Man, shit be crazy in Mexico. You send me back there, you might as well shove a grenade up my ass and pull the pin.”

Now while that might seem like an irrelevant thing to say if someone is here illegally, just to try to get some sympathy or something, in America, we do grant asylum to people who have a reasonable fear of being persecuted or facing some violent action in their home country, through no fault of their own. For instance, someone who is gay, living in a country where they will murder you for being gay, is precisely the kind of person we would not send back.

Because anyone can claim such a thing without proof, the United States will hold them in an immigration facility, until their claim can be processed, researched, and determined their fears are legitimate. An asylum officer did hear his story, and presumably after some investigation, felt his claims weren’t total bullshit, and that a hearing may be in order, as opposed to him being full of shit and getting sent straight back.

Well, Martinez was there for like six fucking months. So he was like, “Dudes, I have money. Can I fucking post bond, and go back to where I was staying while I await my trial to determine whether I can stay? It’s a lot of money, and I worked hard for that shit. I’m not going to just walk away from that.”

In the United States, we have this “Habeus Corpus” rule. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but few understand it. I know I didn’t at first. It literally translates to “that you have the body.” I’m sure that clears it all up, right? Of course not.

Let me give you an imaginary scenario. You have some dude and you think he murdered his wife. So you arrest him on suspicion of doing so. The problem is, you don’t have a dead wife lying around to prove anyone was murdered. You just have some circumstantial evidence that suggests that some woman was murdered.

In the US, you can’t just be held forever in jail without getting a trial and being prosecuted, that’s bullshit. So basically, in this instance, a habeus petition is like, “If you don’t have the fucking body to prove anyone was murdered, you have to let me fucking go. You can’t just hold me forever while you try to figure out whether I killed someone or not.”

Habeus has since became much more generic, and now basically means, “Either produce the evidence needed to prosecute me or let me go.” In this case, counsel Pratik Shah, for Martinez pointed out that his client wasn’t even close to all the hurdles needed to deport him, so he’d be detained a crazy amount of time before a final decision was made. A segment of his argument was this:

My client is yet another example of someone who — there was no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future after he had been detained at six months. And that is because he had not even been given a hearing while detained.

We’re not talking about the non-detained docket; we are talking about detained.

Counsel Pratik Shah

He had been detained not — for six months, the government had not given him a hearing on his withholding claim. There is no chance he could have been removed in the reasonably foreseeable future because you can’t remove him until he has a hearing, has an IJ decision, has his BIA appeal.

We are talking months, if not years, until that happens.

So Martinez, filed a habeus petition, and was like, “Hey, man. You can’t just hold me forever. If you’ve got the evidence needed to say my claim is bullshit, then by all means, deport me. Otherwise, I should get my bond hearing at least, so I can do what I need to do, while I wait for my deportation hearing, and all the other shit you’re planning on putting me through before you are finished with me.”

So why does SCOTUS care about this?

Lower courts in the past, have ruled that the government has a limited period of time to grant a bond hearing, and that the burden to determine the person is a flight risk, is on the government. That last part just means that by default, the bond should be granted, and it should be assumed the person is not a flight risk, unless government puts forth some evidence they are.

Martinez’s argument in part, is that he was never given a hearing to determine whether he was someone at risk of non-compliance, so the government didn’t meet its burden. Since an immigration officer agreed his claim seems legit that he’d be murdered if he went back to Mexico, it seems logical he’ll likely be allowed to stay. So let him go on bond, and if at trial, the government finds evidence to suggest he was full of shit, they can send him back then.

There is a rule in place that requires the government to hold non-citizen illegal immigrants for 90 days, after they’re ordered to be removed from the country, but it allows for the government to hold them for more than 90 days if it thinks they’re a danger to society, or they simply won’t leave now that they’ve been told to.

SCOTUS had a previous case, in 2001, Zadvydas v. Davis, where they ruled that there is a time limit on this rule, and it’s six months. That extra time is for someone who is what they call “stateless.” That just means they’re in a situation for instance, where their home country won’t take them back, so where the fuck do you even send them? That takes time to figure out, but it doesn’t take forever. The constitution doesn’t just let government hold people indefinitely. So Zadvydas puts what they considered a reasonable and consistent time limit for the government to determine what to do with these fuckers.

So SCOTUS’ question is does that six month limit mean that they have to get a bond hearing? Or is it just that the government has to send them somewhere at this point, but otherwise stop holding them.

One interesting side issue here, was a question Justice Gorsuch asked:

What is the status of your client? Has he, in fact, received a bond hearing and is he, in fact, at liberty currently?

As it turns out, Martinez had been released under government supervision. I’m guessing maybe an ankle monitor.

The nature of Justice Gorsuch’s claim was, “If this dude is already released, isn’t your claim fucking moot?” (Moot in this case just means, the thing Martinez wanted, he already got, and therefore there’s no reason to be here.)

But counsel Shah pointed out that while government did release him, they’re free to grab him again, unless SCOTUS rules in his favor here, so he’s basically suing for some level of security to know his future, and what government may or may not do.

In a weird unanimous decision, the justices agreed that Martinez loses. He is not required to get a bond hearing. I say it’s weird, because while they all agreed that Martinez loses, they agreed for different reasons, and three different opinions were given as to why he loses.

Alito authored one opinion saying the lower courts can’t force the federal government to give this fucker a hearing, just because he filed a habeus petition.

Justices Thomas and Gorsuch were like, “Not only do we think Martinez doesn’t have a case here, we don’t think it’s any of our business. He doesn’t have any constitutional rights, he’s not a citizen. And furthermore, we think the assholes who decided Zadvydas were on crack, and that shit should be overruled as well. Spoiler alert, Justice Thomas was on that court also, and was in the minority. So apparently, he’s still salty about that shit.

Justice Breyer, ever the contrarian, thinks Zadvydas was decided correctly, that the court that decided it were geniuses, and it applies here. Spoiler alert, Justice Breyer was also on that court, and was in the majority.

So Martinez loses, but they didn’t have the votes to overturn Zadvydas. Case closed…for now.

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