Reno v. Flores

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Reno v. Flores
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued October 13, 1992
Decided March 23, 1993
Full case name Reno v. Flores
Citations 507 U.S. 292 (more)
113 S. Ct. 1439; 123 L. Ed. 2d 1; 61 U.S.L.W. 4237; 93 Cal. Daily Op. Service 2028; 93 Daily Journal DAR 3628; 7 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 73
Prior history 942 F.2d 1352 (reversed and remanded)
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Scalia, joined by Rehnquist, White, O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, and Thomas
Concurrence O'Connor, joined by Souter
Dissent Stevens, joined by Blackmun
Laws applied
8 U.S.C.S. 1252(a)(1)

Reno v. Flores, 507 U.S. 292 (1993) was a case decided by the United States Supreme Court.



Under 8 U.S.C.S. 1252(a)(1), an alien detained pending a deportation hearing generally may, in the discretion of the United States Attorney General, be

(1) continued in custody;
(2) released under a bond containing such conditions as the Attorney General may prescribe; or
(3) released on conditional parole.


The Western Region of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)--which operated under the Attorney General—announced a policy allowing the release of alien minors to only a parent or lawful guardian, except in "unusual and extraordinary" cases. Pursuant to this policy, alien juveniles were arrested and detained pending deportation hearings. ...


A certified class of alien juveniles protested their arrest and detention. The complaint raised claims challenging

(1) the region's juvenile-release policy on constitutional, statutory, and international law grounds; and
(2) the conditions of juveniles' detention.

Procedural history[edit]

District court[edit]

The District Court

(1) granted the INS partial summary judgment on the statutory and international law release grounds;
(2) approved a consent decree that settled all claims regarding detention conditions; and
(3) granted the class partial summary judgment on an equal protection claim as to release.

In 1988, the INS promulgated a regulation, codified as to deportation at 8 CFR 242.24, which

(1) generally authorized the release of a detained alien juvenile, in order of preference, to a parent, a legal guardian, or specified close adult relatives of the juvenile, unless the INS determined that detention was required to secure an appearance or to insure the safety of the juvenile or others;
(2) in limited circumstances, authorized discretionary consideration of the release of a juvenile to another person who executed an agreement to care for the juvenile and to insure the juvenile's attendance at future immigration proceedings; and (3) for unreleased juveniles, generally required a suitable placement at a facility which, in accordance with the consent decree, had to meet specified care standards.

A week after the regulation took effect, however, the District Court, invalidating the regulatory scheme on due process grounds,

(1) ordered the INS to release any otherwise eligible juvenile to a parent, guardian, custodian, conservator, or "other responsible adult party";
(2) dispensed with the INS condition that an unrelated custodian agree to care for such a juvenile, as well as to insure the juvenile's attendance at future proceedings; and
(3) revised the INS' review procedures by decreeing that an immigration judge hearing on probable cause and on release restrictions was to be provided "forthwith" after arrest, regardless of whether a juvenile requested it.

Ninth Circuit panel[edit]

On appeal, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in reversing, concluded that

(1) the INS did not exceed its statutory authority in promulgating 242.24;
(2) 242.24 did not violate substantive due process, under the Federal Constitution's Fifth Amendment; and
(3) a remand was necessary with respect to a procedural due process claim (934 F2d 991).

Ninth Circuit en-banc[edit]

An 11-judge en banc court, designated pursuant to a Court of Appeals rule, then

(1) cited federal constitutional grounds including due process;
(2) vacated the panel opinion; and
(3) affirmed the District Court's order in all respects (942 F2d 1352).

Opinion of the Court[edit]

On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case for further proceedings. In an opinion by Scalia, J., joined by Rehnquist, Ch. J., and White, O'Connor, Kennedy, Souter, and Thomas, JJ., it was held that 242.24, on its face,

(1) did not violate substantive due process, under the Fifth Amendment, through asserted infringement of an allegedly "fundamental" liberty interest, that is, an alleged right of a child who had no available parent, close relative, or legal guardian, and for whom the government was responsible, to be placed in the custody of a willing and able private custodian rather than the custody of a government-operated or government-selected child care institution, because
(a) if there existed such a fundamental right, then it would presumably apply to state custody over orphaned and abandoned children as well,
(b) such an alleged right was novel,
(c) under the circumstances, such continued government custody was rationally connected to a government interest in promoting juveniles' welfare and was not punitive,
(d) there was no constitutional need to meet even a more limited demand for an individualized hearing as to whether private placement would be in a juvenile's "best interests," so long as institutional custody was good enough, and
(e) any doubts as to the constitutionality of retaining such custody were eliminated as to alien juveniles;
(2) did not violate any "equal protection guarantee" in the Fifth Amendment, through
(a) releasing alien juveniles with close relatives or legal guardians, while detaining those without, or
(b) releasing juveniles to unrelated adults pending federal delinquency proceedings, but detaining unaccompanied alien juveniles pending deportation hearings;
(3) did not violate procedural due process, under the Fifth Amendment, through
(a) failing to require the INS to determine in the case of each alien juvenile that detention in INS custody would better serve the juvenile's interests than release to some other "responsible adult,"
(b) not providing for automatic review by an immigration judge of initial INS deportability and custody determinations, or
(c) failing to set a time period within which an immigration judge hearing, if requested, had to be held; and
(4) did not go beyond the scope of the Attorney General's discretion under 1252(a)(1) to continue custody over arrested aliens, because 242.24 rationally pursued the lawful purpose of protecting the welfare of such juveniles.


O'Connor, J., joined by Souter, J., concurring, concluded that

(1) the detained children in question had a constitutionally protected interest in freedom from institutional confinement, which interest lay within the core of the due process clause; and
(2) the Supreme Court did not hold otherwise, but reversed the Court of Appeals' decision because the INS program in question complied, on the program's face, with the requirements of due process.


Stevens, J., joined by Blackmun, J., dissenting, expressed the view that

(1) the litigation history of the case at hand
(a) cast doubt on the good faith of the government's asserted interest in the welfare of such detained alien juveniles as a justification for 242.24, and
(b) demonstrated the complete lack of support, in either evidence or experience, for the government's contention that detaining such juveniles, when there were "other responsible parties" willing to assume care, somehow protected the interests of those juveniles;
(2) an agency's interest in minimizing administrative costs was a patently inadequate justification for the detention of harmless children, even when the conditions of detention were "good enough"; and
(3) 242.24, in providing for the wholesale detention of such juveniles for an indeterminate period without individual hearings,
(a) was not authorized by 1252(a)(1), and
(b) did not satisfy the federal constitutional demands of due process.

See also[edit]