The Supreme Court on Tuesday endorsed the u.s. 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. For example, the 9th Circuit ruling stated that Immigration and Custom's Enforcement would have to detain the illegal immigrants immediately or they would exempt from ever being detained.
Advocates had argued the law only allowed for detention immediately after immigrants were released from prison.
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.
Ultimately, Alito wrote, "neither the statute's text nor its structure " support the immigrants' argument.
Most of the plaintiffs in the case are legal immigrants.
Alito noted that the court repeatedly has said in the past that "an official's crucial duties are better carried out late than never", Reuters reported.
The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would consider the case of Lee Boyd Malvo, one of the two "D.C. snipers" who terrorized the Washington area in 2002.
In dissent, liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said the ruling raises serious due process questions.
The 9th Circuit said such immigrants could seek bond hearings to argue for their release.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said the administration was "pleased with the decision". In each case, litigation against the federal government started before Trump took office.
The case centered on immigrants Mony Preap and Bassam Yusuf Khoury, lawful permanent residents who had been convicted of crimes and sentenced to prison.
The appeals court said Malvo's life-without-parole sentences were legal when they were imposed.
The phrase that will be heard in the Supreme Court case is "irreparable corruption" and whether the crime committed represents that or just "the transient immaturity of youth". They can be held indefinitely without a bond hearing after completing their sentences. Federal law mandates detention for certain aliens while awaiting deportation proceedings, he said.
Some courts have interpreted the rulings to mean that mandatory life without parole laws are unconstitutional, but that those that offer a judge discretion are not.