Attorney General Becerra Joins 6 State Attorneys General to File Amicus Brief in the U.S. Supreme Court Seeking Constitutional Protection for Non-Citizens Detained by Federal Authorities

Friday, February 10, 2017
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SACRAMENTO - Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with the state attorneys general from Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, today filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in Jennings v Rodriguez, a case involving the federal government’s authority to detain non-citizens pending completion of their removal proceedings.

The plaintiffs in this case are non-citizens who have been detained by federal authorities for longer than six months.  They argue that the Constitution requires them to receive the same basic protection enjoyed by other non-criminals who are detained by the federal government: a hearing to determine whether their continued detention is justified.  The plaintiffs do not dispute the government’s right to detain individuals who are dangerous or pose a flight risk; they are only asking for an opportunity to be released on bond if the government cannot show that they present such a danger. 

“No one should be detained for months without being assessed first for his or her actual flight risk or dangerousness. That's why I've joined six states on behalf of Californians opposing the detention of non-citizens who have never been found to pose a threat,” said Attorney General Becerra.  “Mothers and fathers are detained who cannot return home to their children; others are simply missing work. Their absences could have long-term impact on families, communities, states and the country.” 

In the brief, the States argue that they have a strong interest in ensuring that individuals who are neither dangerous nor a flight risk are not detained while they seek to establish a legal right to remain in the United States.  The brief highlights the significant contributions that these individuals make to society as heads of families, employees, and community stakeholders and describes the human, economic, and societal loss caused by prolonged and unnecessary detention.  It also argues that the basic procedural protections the plaintiffs seek are consistent with the procedures that the Supreme Court requires before a State may detain a person for other reasons, such as mental illness.  Finally, the brief emphasizes that these protections will make sure that their residents are protected from arbitrary detentions by the federal government.

Earlier this week Attorney General Becerra joined 17 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in State of Washington v. Trump, a case opposing the Trump Administration’s unconstitutional and un-American travel ban.

Last month, Attorney General Becerra released a statement in response to President Trump’s executive order asserting his commitment to protecting Californians against orders that may violate constitutional and other legal rights.  Attorney General Becerra stated, “The California Department of Justice (DOJ) is prepared to protect the public safety and general welfare of all Californians as well as their privacy and property rights.  These are rights and protections which have survived numerous legal challenges over time.  And they are grounded on our federal and state constitutions not on an executive pronouncement.” 

A copy of the brief is attached to the electronic version of this release at

# # #
PDF icon 15-1204bsacStatesOfCalifornia.pdf600.11 KB