U.S. Supreme Court hands Trump a victory on immigration detention

US Supreme Court to consider whether Beltway sniper Lee Boyd Malvo deserves new sentencing

The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed the USA government's authority to detain immigrants awaiting deportation anytime - potentially even years - after they have completed prison terms for criminal convictions, handing President Donald Trump a victory as he pursues hardline immigration policies.

He was released from prison in 2006 but was not taken into immigration custody until 2013.

While the Obama administration held the same view of the law, it has become more important for the Trump administration, which has stepped up deportation enforcement and complained that policies of "sanctuary cities" hinder its ability to learn of the release of those whose crimes make them deportable.

It is not the court's job, Alito wrote, to impose a time limit for when immigrants can be detained after serving a prison sentence.

An appeals court in Virginia ruled previous year that Malvo should be resentenced in that state because of Supreme Court decisions that came after his sentence and altered sentencing requirements for juvenile offenders. She urged the Senate to move quickly to enforce new ethics rules on the court. But unlike with most rights guaranteed by the first 10 amendments, states have not been compelled to follow suit and require unanimous juries in all state cases.

The issue could also create a potential opening for Trump, as he has repeatedly cited the Supreme Court as a leading motivator for rallying his base in his victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Justices Steven Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.

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"As we have held time and again, an official's crucial duties are better carried out late than never", he wrote, adding that such a tight deadline was often not feasible logistically speaking.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled a year ago that while Malvo's life-without-parole sentences were legal when they were imposed, Supreme Court decisions that followed altered sentencing requirements for juvenile offenders.

Kerri Kupec, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, said administration officials were pleased with the ruling.

In those cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided with the immigrants, but other appeals courts had sided with the government in similar cases. In both cases, litigation against the federal government started before Trump took office.

One of the lead plaintiffs involved in the California case, Mony Preap, has been a lawful permanent resident of the United States since 1981 and has two convictions for possession of marijuana. A lower court ruled that he must be re-sentenced because he was only 17 when the crimes were committed.

Under federal immigration law, immigrants convicted of certain offenses are subject to mandatory detention during their deportation process.

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