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Detention of Aliens Ordered Removed [65 FR 80281] [FR 70-00]
FEDERAL REGISTER CITE:
65 FR 80281
DATE OF PUBLICATION:
December 21, 2000
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Immigration and Naturalization Service
8 CFR Parts 212, 236, and 241
[INS No. 2029-00; AG Order No. 2349-2000]
Detention of Aliens Ordered Removed
Immigration and Naturalization Service, Justice.
This rule amends the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Service) regulations by providing a uniform review process governing the detention of criminal, inadmissible, and other aliens, excluding Mariel Cubans, who have received a final administrative order of removal, deportation, or exclusion but whose departure has not been effected within the 90-day removal period. Such a process is necessary to ensure periodic custody reviews for aliens detained beyond the removal period and to provide for consiste
ncy in decision-making. Because the Service is developing a specialized, ongoing administrative review process for these custody determinations, this rule eliminates the appellate role of the Board of Immigration Appeals (Board) in post-final order custody determinations. This rule also amends the Service’s regulations to reflect the authority of the Commissioner, and through her, other designated Service officials, to release certain aliens from Service custody, issue orders of supervision, and grant stays
This rule is effective December 21, 2000.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Joan S. Lieberman, Office of the General Counsel, Immigration and Naturalization Service, 425 I Street NW, Room 6100, Washington, DC 20536, telephone (202) 514-2895 (not a toll-free call).
Why Is the Service Issuing This Final Rule?
Congress has progressively acted to restrict the release into the community of aliens convicted of certain crimes, beginning with amendments affecting aggravated felons in the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (ADAA), Public Law 100-690, and the Immigration Act of 1990 (Immact), Public Law 101-649. Congress extended these restrictions to other categories of crimes in the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), Public Law 104-132, and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibili
ty Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), Public Law 104-208. Pursuant to these amendments, the Service’s continued detention of aliens convicted of aggravated felonies has not been subject to the statutory time limits that apply in the case of certain noncriminal aliens. Under section 241(a)(6) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6), certain classes of aliens may be detained in the discretion of the Attorney General beyond the 90-day statutory removal period set forth in section 241(a)(1) of the
Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(1), including aliens determined by the Attorney General to constitute a risk to the community or to be unlikely to comply with the order of removal. As a result of this change in the law and other factors, there has been a considerable increase in the number of aliens in immigration custody who have a final order of removal but who the Service is unable to remove during the 90-day removal period.
The Department of Justice (Department) has determined that a separate custody review process is appropriate for aliens who are detained beyond the 90-day removal period. This rule permits a comprehensive and fair review of such post-order detention by establishing an automatic, centralized, and multi-layered process to determine whether detainees may be released from custody and sets forth the procedures governing such release or continued detention. As was the case with the implementation of the Mariel Cub
an Review Plan, this review process is intended to balance the need to protect the American public from potentially dangerous aliens who remain in the United States contrary to law with the humanitarian concerns arising from another country’s unjustified delay or refusal to accept the return of its nationals. This provision also applies to criminal aliens granted withholding or deferral of removal for whom removal to a third country is impractical.
Currently, 8 CFR 241.4 provides the general procedures governing the detention of criminal, inadmissible, and other aliens who have received a final administrative removal order but whose departure has not been effected within the 90-day removal period specified in section 241(a)(1) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(1). In 1999, pending
promulgation of more specific procedures by regulation, and to institute a more uniform process nationwide, the Service issued a series of memoranda to provide specific guidance to field offices concerning implementation of interim procedures governing post-order custody cases.
Detention Procedures for Aliens Whose Immediate Repatriation is Not Possible or Practicable
, February 3, 1999;
Supplemental Detention Procedures
, April 30, 1999;
Interim Changes and Instructions for Conduct of Post-Order Custody Reviews
, August 6, 1999 (collectively “the Pearson memoranda”).
This rule establishes permanent procedures for post-order custody reviews. The rule assists the decision-maker in determining whether an alien is an appropriate candidate for release from custody after the expiration of the removal period. On December 21, 2000, these procedures will supersede the Pearson memoranda. The new procedures are modeled after those governing the Mariel Cubans at 8 CFR 212.12 and consist of a records review, the opportunity for a panel interview and recommendation, and a final decis
ion by a separate Service Headquarters unit, the Headquarters Post-Order Detention Unit (HQPDU). Although Mariel Cuban procedures will continue to be conducted pursuant to 8 CFR 212.12, the review process is similar for both groups of aliens.
On June 30, 2000, the Department published in the
at 65 FR 40540 a proposed rule with request for comments to implement a permanent, periodic custody review process for aliens whose removal has not been effected at the expiration of the 90-day removal period pursuant to section 241(a)(6) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6). The initial comment period was for 30 days and expired on July 31, 2000. However, in response to several commenters’ requests for an extension, the comment period was extended for 10 days until August 11, 2000.
The Department received numerous public comments recommending substantive modifications to the proposed rule. Many of the comments overlap or endorse the submissions of other commenters. For this reason, the Service will address the comments by issue rather than by reference to the individual comments.
After careful consideration of all comments, the Department will retain the basic structure of the proposed rule, with some modifications. This rule implements an important program in furtherance of congressional and executive policy to ensure the removal of aliens who commit serious crimes in this country and to protect the safety of our citizens and lawful residents against dangerous individuals or those posing a flight risk.
Constitutionality and Statutory Authority
Numerous commenters expressed the view that the proposed rule is not authorized by statute or violates the Constitution of the United States. Post-order detention cases are the subject of on-going litigation. Two courts of appeals have upheld the Attorney General’s authority to continue detention after the removal period.
See Duy Dac Ho v. Joseph Greene,
204 F.3d 1045 (10th Cir. 2000);
Zadvydas v. Underdown,
185 F.3d 279 (5th Cir. 1999),
121 S.Ct. 297 (2000).
The Ninth Circuit held, however, in
Ma v. Reno,
208 F.3d 815, 822 (9th Cir. 2000),
121 S.Ct. 297 (2000), that detention may not be extended more than a “reasonable time” beyond the statutory removal period. The United States Supreme Court recently granted certiorari in the
Zadvydas and Ma
cases to resolve the disagreements in the courts of appeals.
the Tenth Circuit upheld the detention of inadmissible and deportable criminal aliens under 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6) on statutory and constitutional grounds. 204 F.3d at 1055-1060. The court held, among other things, that section 241(a)(6) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6), expressly allows the Attorney General, in her discretion, to continue detaining certain aliens, including aliens who she has determined would pose a risk of danger or flight if released, beyond the 90-day removal period while efforts are being
made to remove them from the United States.
at 1057. The court declined to impose a time limit on detention, stating that it will not “substitute its judgment for that of Congress by reading into the statute a time limit that is not included in the plain language of the statute.”
Like the Tenth Circuit, the Fifth Circuit, in
also rejected a constitutional challenge to continued detention under section 241(a)(6) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6). 185 F.3d at 294-97. The Fifth Circuit did not question the statutory authority of the Attorney General to detain a criminal alien beyond the 90-day period
where the country to which the alien had been ordered removed declined to accept his return in the near future, and it held that the continued detention of a dangerous criminal alien in these circumstances does not violate substantive or procedural due process. The court analyzed the constitutional question on the premise that the detained alien is able to obtain periodic review of his detention under Service regulations,
185 F.3d at 287-88 & n.9, and that the availability of such periodic review precluded characterization of the alien’s detention as
indefinite or permanent.
at 291 (citations omitted). While acknowledging that a deportable resident alien is entitled to greater procedural due process rights during the removal proceedings themselves than those accorded an excludable alien, the court in
concluded that once a removal order has become final and the only act remaining to be carried out is the actual expulsion of the alien, no distinction exists between the constitutional rights of former resident aliens and those of excludable aliens.
at 294-97. Therefore, the continued detention of a deportable criminal alien who cannot be immediately removed under section 241(a)(6) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6), does not violate substantive due process where the government has an interest in protecting society from further criminal activity by the alien and in ensuring that he or she does not flee and thereby frustrate his or her eventual removal.
at 296-97.The Ninth Circuit has interpreted the detention statute in a manner that presents a direct conflict with the decisions of the Tenth and Fifth Circuits. In
the court stated that it could avoid deciding the constitutional issues by construing the statute to prohibit detention, in many cases, beyond the 90-day removal period. While recognizing that section 241(a)(6) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6), unambiguously authorizes the Attorney General to continue criminal aliens in custody “beyond the removal period,” the court nevertheless found that the statute does not specify a particular length of time for detention and therefore can be construed to permit detenti
on “only for a reasonable time beyond the statutory removal period.” 208 F.3d at 821-22, 827. In
itself, because it concluded that there was not a reasonable likelihood that the alien would be returned to Cambodia in the reasonably foreseeable future, the court held that the Service was required to release him immediately upon the expiration of the statutory removal period. In reaching that result, the court relied on several Ninth Circuit decisions from the 1920’s and 1930’s interpreting a provision in the Immigration Act of 1917 and on international law.
at 822, 827-30. Because it concluded that detention beyond 90 days is not statutorily authorized in
case, the court did not address the substantive and procedural constitutional issues that were addressed in Ho and
In formulating the proposed custody review procedure, the Department did not follow the Ninth Circuit’s statutory ruling because it is not supported by the statute’s text or history. The Attorney General construes section 241(a)(6) to authorize her to continue to detain, beyond the 90-day removal period, criminal aliens and other aliens whose release would present a risk of harm to the community or of flight by the alien. That interpretation is supported by the text of section 241(a)(6), which unambiguously
authorizes the Attorney General to detain the specified aliens “beyond the removal period” and imposes no time limit; by the related detention provisions in sections 235(c)and 241(a)(2), which make clear that granting the Attorney General even the discretion to release criminal aliens after a notice to appear has been filed is an exception to a general statutory rule of
detention of such aliens; by section 241(a)(7), which makes clear that when Congress wanted to create a special exception for aliens whose countries will not immediately accept their return it did so explicitly (
IIRIRA §§ 303(b)(3)(B)(ii) and 307(a)) (referring to situations in which countries will not accept return of their nationals); and by the statutory history of the amendments to the Act leading up to the enactment of section 241(a)(6) in 1996, as well as the legislative history of that enactment itself.
The Attorney General’s authority has been sustained by the Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits, which have upheld the constitutionality of post-order detention under section 241(a)(6)of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6), and the Pearson procedures. According to these courts, detention under section 241(a)(6) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6), is not unconstitutional where the alien’s removal cannot be effected immediately, the alien is determined to be a danger or a flight risk if released, and he or she is afforded
a periodic and meaningful opportunity to seek release from custody.
See, e.g., Ho,
204 F.3d at 1057-60;
Ngo v. INS
, 192 F.3d 390, 397 (3rd Cir. 1999);
185 F.3d at 287-88. The final rule is structured to afford this type of review. It provides a custody review procedure that is comparable to the Pearson review scheme that two circuit courts have endorsed, see Ngo, 192 F.3d at 395-98;
185 F.3d at 297, and the Mariel Cuban Plan that the Ninth Circuit approved in
Barrera-Echavarria v. Rison,
44 F.3d 1441, 1448 (9th Cir. 1995) (
). It has the procedural mechanisms that those courts have sustained against procedural due process challenges.
Another commenter felt that the final rule should express commitment to protecting and restoring the alien’s liberty. Notwithstanding their physical presence in the United States, aliens under final orders of removal have no greater constitutional rights with respect to their application to be released from custody than excludable aliens seeking admission to the United States for the first time.
204 F.3d at 1058-59;
185 F.3d at 294-95. The government has a compelling interest in expelling aliens under final removal orders, just as it does excludable aliens. Ho, 204 F.3d at 1059;
185 F.3d at 296. Furthermore, the failure of another government to agree to the return of its nationals does not divest the United States of its sovereign authority to enforce its immigration laws, nor does it confer on the alien a right to be released back into the United States.
See Jean v. Nelson,
727 F.2d 957, 975 (11th Cir. 1984) (
), aff’d, 472 U.S. 846 (1985). To conclude otherwise would mean that an alien who has been ordered removed from the United States nonetheless enjoys a constitutional right to release from custody that is greater than what the alien had when he or she was still in proceedings.
185 F.3d at 296.
Finally, a commenter opined that § 241.4(k)(1)(ii) is illegal and should be deleted in its entirety, as well as any other reference in the rule to the additional three-month period that the district director may retain detention authority after the expiration of the removal period. Section 241(a)(6) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6), plainly authorizes the Attorney General to exercise her discretion in determining whether to retain custody of criminal aliens beyond the 90-day removal period.
H.R. Rep. No. 104-469, pt.l, at 234 (1996). The Department, while carefully considering the views of the commenters, has determined that the government’s statutory interpretation is consistent with the statutory text and history and will retain the basic structure of the proposed rule.
One commenter suggested changes to proposed §§ 241.4(a) and (a)(4) that would circumscribe the Attorney General’s authority contrary to the express language of section 241(a)(6) of the Act, 8 U.S.C. 1231(a)(6). The commenter suggested inserting language that detention be permissible only if necessary to effectuate removal. The Department declines to limit the Attorney General’s authority to exercise her discretion in the manner suggested by the commenter.
Some commenters objected to proposed § 241.4(a)(4) because the scope of the rule includes an alien who has been granted withholding or deferral of removal under 8 CFR 208. The nature of the comments suggest that there may be some confusion over the reference to withholding and deferral of removal in proposed § 241.4(a)(4). This section has been revised and paragraphs 241.4(a) and (b)(3) have been added to the final rule to clarify the applicability of these custody procedures.
Many commenters suggested that the rule should create a presumption of immediate release in the case of an alien granted withholding of removal under either section 241(b)(3) of the Act or under the Convention Against Torture. The Department declines to adopt this suggestion, as the decision to detain an individual granted withholding or deferral of removal requires a fact-specific analysis consistent with the provisions of section 241 of the Act. A grant of withholding or deferral of removal is limited to
the specific country or countries designated in the order and does not protect an individual from removal to a third country. Moreover, a grant of withholding or deferral of removal does not constitute a grant of admission to the United States; decisions regarding detention and release are subject to section 241 of the Act. With respect to deferral of removal, 8 CFR 208.17(c) specifically provides that persons granted deferral who are otherwise subject to detention continue to be governed by section 241 of
the Act. The grant of withholding or deferral is relevant, however, and the decision-maker may consider the grant of protection in reaching a custody determination.