It has been a little more than a month since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. I’m still actively trying to make sense of not only this ruling, but also others that have been made over the summer of 2022. This action was not entirely a surprise for me, considering the trajectory that the court has been shifting toward, yet I struggle with apt verbiage to properly convey how the actions of an unelected body now have such sway over our material conditions and our social reality.
The conservative wing of this court offers a textbook illustration of anti-social legal interpretation in action. In a very literal sense, I would argue, as there appears to be a pattern of rulings that demonstrate a pervasive disregard for and actively promote violation of the rights of others. Indeed, this animus is aimed primarily at communities that have historically been socially and economically marginalized.
In addition to the court’s highly publicized decision on abortion, it issued a set of rulings earlier in the month specific to immigration and immigrant rights that are especially concerning for many of us in mixed documented-status communities. A pair of those decisions further illustrate this point and what impact it will have on civil liberties for undocumented folks.
The Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez and Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez decisions were both released on June 13. The decisions are rooted in a larger query that addresses the nebulous nature of immigration courts and the detention apparatus that they help feed. In Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez, the petitioner had applied for a deferral of removal and awaited a decision based on the petition. A full six months in detention had passed without a bond hearing called, prompting a petition to be filed that challenged the constitutionality of detention beyond a half year.
The Supreme Court ruled that the right to a bond hearing was not needed, in effect insinuating that people may be detained without due process. This is a concerning result given the inhumane conditions at many Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities. Similarly, the Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez case also contested detention and anti-immigrant policy through the class action lens. The court asserted that federal immigration law prohibits injunctions issued to protect a whole class. In effect, this makes it more difficult to protect entire groups. If cases must be presented individually, pursuing legal action can prove too costly for those with limited economic means.
In these two rulings, the court has codified a draconian interpretation of the most inhumane elements of national anti-immigrant policy. Folks may be detained for months or years without seeing their day in court. Likewise, the infrastructure for contesting these policies at the level in which they are applied — a community-wide level — have been hampered. This is wholly unacceptable.
Oscar Rosales grew up in the Yakima Valley and works and resides in Seattle.
Read more of the July 27-Aug. 2, 2022 issue.