Clark v. Martinez, No. 03-878.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtScalia
Citation543 U.S. 371
Docket NumberNo. 03-878.
Decision Date12 January 2005
PartiesCLARK, FIELD OFFICE DIRECTOR, SEATTLE, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, ET AL. v. MARTINEZ
543 U.S. 371
CLARK, FIELD OFFICE DIRECTOR, SEATTLE, IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT, ET AL.
v.
MARTINEZ
No. 03-878.
Supreme Court of United States.
Argued October 13, 2004.
Decided January 12, 2005.*

If an alien is found inadmissible and ordered removed, the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) ordinarily must remove the alien from the country within 90 days. 8 U. S. C. § 1231(a)(1)(A). Here, Martinez, respondent in No. 03-878, and Benitez, petitioner in No. 03-7434, Cuban nationals who are both inadmissible under § 1182, were ordered removed, but were detained beyond the 90-day removal period. Each filed a habeas corpus petition challenging his continued detention. In Martinez's case, the District Court found that removal was not reasonably foreseeable and ordered that Martinez be released under appropriate conditions. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. In Benitez's case, the District Court also accepted that removal would not occur in the foreseeable future, but nonetheless denied the petition. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.

Held:

1. Under § 1231(a)(6), the Secretary may detain inadmissible aliens beyond the 90-day removal period, but only for so long as is reasonably necessary to achieve removal. Section 1231(a)(6)'s operative language, "may be detained beyond the removal period," applies equally to all aliens that are its subject, whether or not those aliens have been admitted to the country. In Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U. S. 678, this Court interpreted § 1231(a)(6) to authorize the detention of aliens who have been admitted to the country only as long as "reasonably necessary" to effectuate their removal. Id., at 689, 699. This interpretation must apply to inadmissible aliens as well. Even if the statutory purpose and constitutional concerns influencing the Zadvydas construction are not present for inadmissible aliens, that cannot justify giving the same statutory text a different meaning depending on the characteristics of the aliens involved. Crowell v. Benson, 285 U. S. 22, Raygor v. Regents of Univ. of Minn., 534 U. S. 533, and Jinks v. Richland County, 538 U. S.

[543 U.S. 372]

456, distinguished. Moreover, contrary to the Government's argument, nothing in Zadvydas indicates that § 1231(a)(6) authorizes detention until it approaches constitutional limits. Nor does § 1182(d)(5) independently authorize continued detention of these aliens. Pp. 377-386.

2. In Zadvydas, the Court further held that the presumptive period during which an alien's detention is reasonably necessary to effectuate removal is six months, and that he must be conditionally released after that time if he can demonstrate that there is "no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future." 533 U. S., at 701. The Government having suggested no reason that the time reasonably necessary for removal is longer for an inadmissible alien, this same 6-month presumptive detention period applies in these cases. Because both Martinez and Benitez were detained well beyond six months after their removal orders became final, the Government has brought forward nothing to indicate that a substantial likelihood of removal subsists, and the District Court in each case has determined that removal to Cuba is not reasonably foreseeable, the habeas petitions should have been granted. Pp. 386-387.

No. 03-878, affirmed; No. 03-7434, 337 F. 3d 1289, reversed; and both cases remanded.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEVENS, O'CONNOR, KENNEDY, SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined. O'CONNOR, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 387. THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which REHNQUIST, C. J., joined as to Part I-A, post, p. 388.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Deputy Solicitor General Kneedler argued the cause for petitioners in No. 03-878 and respondent in No. 03-7434. With him on the briefs were Acting Solicitor General Clement, former Solicitor General Olson, Assistant Attorney General Keisler, Patricia A. Millett, and Donald E. Keener.

Christine Stebbins Dahl, by appointment of the Court, 541 U. S. 986, argued the cause for respondent in No. 03-878. With her on the brief was Stephen R. Sady.

John S. Mills, by appointment of the Court, 541 U. S. 1084, argued the cause for petitioner in No. 03-7434. With him on the briefs were Tracy S. Carlin and Rebecca B. Creed.

[543 U.S. 373]

JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.


An alien arriving in the United States must be inspected by an immigration official, 66 Stat. 198, as amended, 8 U. S. C. § 1225(a)(3), and, unless he is found "clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted," must generally undergo removal proceedings to determine admissibility, § 1225(b) (2)(A). Meanwhile the alien may be detained, subject to the Secretary's discretionary authority to parole him into the country. See § 1182(d)(5); 8 CFR § 212.5 (2004). If, at the conclusion of removal proceedings, the alien is determined to be inadmissible and ordered removed, the law provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security "shall remove the alien from the United States within a period of 90 days," 8 U. S. C. § 1231(a)(1)(A). These cases concern the Secretary's authority to continue to detain an inadmissible alien subject to a removal order after the 90-day removal period has elapsed.

543 U.S. 374
I

Sergio Suarez Martinez (respondent in No. 03-878) and Daniel Benitez (petitioner in No. 03-7434) arrived in the United States from Cuba in June 1980 as part of the Mariel boatlift, see Palma v. Verdeyen, 676 F. 2d 100, 101 (CA4 1982) (describing circumstances of Mariel boatlift), and were paroled into the country pursuant to the Attorney General's authority under 8 U. S. C. § 1182(d)(5).1 See Pet. for Cert. in No. 03-878, p. 7; Benitez v. Wallis, 337 F. 3d 1289, 1290 (CA11 2003). Until 1996, federal law permitted Cubans who were paroled into the United States to adjust their status to that of lawful permanent resident after one year. See Cuban Refugee Adjustment Act, 80 Stat. 1161, as amended, notes following 8 U. S. C. § 1255. Neither Martinez nor Benitez qualified for this adjustment, however, because, by the time they applied, both men had become inadmissible because of prior criminal convictions in the United States. When Martinez sought adjustment in 1991, he had been convicted of assault with a deadly weapon in Rhode Island and burglary in California, Pet. for Cert. in No. 03-878, at 7; when Benitez sought adjustment in 1985, he had been convicted of grand theft in Florida, 337 F. 3d, at 1290. Both men were convicted of additional felonies after their adjustment applications were denied: Martinez of petty theft with a prior conviction (1996), assault with a deadly weapon (1998), and attempted oral copulation by force (1999), see Pet. for Cert. in No. 03-878, at 7-8; Benitez of two counts of armed robbery, armed burglary of a conveyance, armed burglary of a structure, aggravated battery, carrying a concealed firearm,

543 U.S. 375

unlawful possession of a firearm while engaged in a criminal offense, and unlawful possession, sale, or delivery of a firearm with an altered serial number (1993), see 337 F. 3d, at 1290-1291.

The Attorney General revoked Martinez's parole in December 2000. Martinez was taken into custody by the INS, and removal proceedings were commenced against him. Pet. for Cert. in No. 03-878, at 8. An Immigration Judge found him inadmissible by reason of his prior convictions, § 1182(a)(2)(B), and lack of sufficient documentation, § 1182(a)(7)(A)(i)(I), and ordered him removed to Cuba. Martinez did not appeal. Pet. for Cert. in No. 03-878, at 8. The INS continued to detain him after expiration of the 90-day removal period, and he remained in custody until he was released pursuant to the District Court order that was affirmed by the Court of Appeals' decision on review here. Id., at 9.

Benitez's parole was revoked in 1993 (shortly after he was imprisoned for his convictions of that year), and the INS immediately initiated removal proceedings against him. In December 1994, an Immigration Judge determined Benitez to be excludable and ordered him deported under §§ 1182(a)(2)(B) and 1182(a)(7)(A)(i)(I) (1994 ed. and Supp. V).2 337 F. 3d, at 1291. Benitez did not seek further review. At the completion of his state prison term, the INS took him into custody for removal, and he continued in custody after expiration of the 90-day removal period. Ibid. In September 2003, Benitez received notification that he was eligible for parole, contingent on his completion of a drug-abuse

543 U.S. 376

treatment program. Letter from Paul D. Clement, Acting Solicitor General, to William K. Suter, Clerk of Court, 1 (Nov. 3, 2004). Benitez completed the program while his case was pending before this Court, and shortly after completion was paroled for a period of one year. Ibid. On October 15, 2004, two days after argument in this Court, Benitez was released from custody to sponsoring family members.3 Id., at 2.

Both aliens filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U. S. C. § 2241 to challenge their detention beyond the 90-day removal period. In Martinez's case, the District Court for the District of Oregon accepted that removal was not reasonably foreseeable, and ordered the INS to release Martinez under conditions that the INS believed appropriate. Martinez v. Smith, No. CV 02-972-PA (Oct. 30, 2002), App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 03-878, p. 2a. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit summarily affirmed, citing its decision in Xi v. INS, 298 F. 3d 832 (2002). Martinez v. Ashcroft, No. 03-35053 (Aug. 18, 2003), App. to Pet. for Cert. in No. 03-878, at 1a. In Benitez's case, the District Court for the Northern District of Florida also concluded that removal would not occur in the "foreseeable future," but nonetheless denied the petition. Benitez v. Wallis, Case No. 5:02cv19 MMP (July 11, 2002), pp. 2,...

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836 practice notes
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    • Federal Register September 17, 2007
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    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 22, 2009
    ...constructions of a statute—one constitutional and the other unconstitutional—to choose the constitutional reading.” Clark v. Martinez, 543 U.S. 371, 395, 125 S.Ct. 716, 160 L.Ed.2d 734 (2005) (THOMAS, J., dissenting). To the extent that 129 S.Ct. 2518constitutional avoidance is a worthwhile......
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