About 2,000 foreign nationals in indefinite detention around the country, including 700 to 1,000 Mariel refugees from Cuba, must be released as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision Wednesday.
The 7-2 ruling, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, struck down one of the last measures used by the government to hold the migrants, who are convicts, without any hope of release. Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice William Rehnquist dissented.
Most immigration-law experts had expected the court to follow its 2001 rejection of indefinite detention for those who could not be deported because their countries would not take them back.
Despite the 2001 ruling, the government continued to hold the 1,000 Mariel refugees by claiming, under a complicated immigration-law theory, that the refugees had never "technically" entered the United States. The government classified those refugees as "excludable" and "inadmissible" because they had been convicted of crimes and their immigration paroles were revoked.
Scalia, in Wednesday's majority opinion, indicated that the government misinterpreted the high court's 2001 opinion, which said the government could hold deportable foreign nationals for no more than six months.