NPR Misleadingly Reports SCOTUS Ruled Immigrants Have No ‘Right’ to Bond Hearings

U.S. Supreme Court building / Getty Images
• February 28, 2018 2:58 pm


National Public Radio got more than 15,000 retweets for a tweet that misleadingly claimed the Supreme Court ruled immigrants "do not have the right" to a bond hearing while being detained.

"The Supreme Court has ruled that immigrants, even those with permanent legal status and asylees, do not have the right to bond hearings," the NPR tweet read.



In reality, the Supreme Court only ruled in Jennings v. Rodriguez that a lower court had erred when it decided that immigrants have a specific statutory right to periodic hearings, and left the door open for a ruling that they do have a constitutional right.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2015 that they were bound by the principle of "constitutional avoidance," the idea that courts should avoid ruling on constitutional questions when there's a plausible statutory interpretation that would resolve the issue. The judges argued that immigration statues implied there be a reasonable time limit on detentions.

But the Supreme Court disagreed, ruling 5-3 that the laws as drafted by Congress were clear in not imposing any sort of time limit on detentions. The ruling essentially accused the Ninth Circuit of misusing constitutional avoidance.

"A court relying on that canon still must interpret the statute, not rewrite it," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority. "Because the Court of Appeals in this case adopted implausible constructions of the three immigration provisions at issue, we reverse its judgment and remand for further proceedings."

Contrary to the NPR tweet, the court avoided ruling that immigrants don't have any right to bond hearings. Instead, they directed the Ninth Circuit to try again and rule on the constitutional issues.

At least some on Twitter pushed back on the viral tweet, including a writer for Vox and an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney.

Published under: Immigration, NPR, Supreme Court