No leeway for indefinite detention of noncitizens

The Globe’s Dec. 17 editorial “Greater oversight is needed in shrouded immigration courts” rightly criticizes the US immigration detention and deportation system for its failure to distinguish accurately between noncitizens who are a threat to public safety and those who are not. But it suggests that Congress should give Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the very agency responsible for the troubled system, the power to detain indefinitely noncitizens whose countries will not accept them.

As the Supreme Court stated in Zadvydas v. Davis, the 2001 case that warned against the indefinite detention of noncitizens, “Freedom from imprisonment . . . lies at the heart of the liberty that” the Fifth Amendment protects. Giving the government more power to hold people without end, outside the protections built into the criminal justice system, is a dangerous proposition.

The government has a responsibility to do what it can to prevent crimes, whether committed by noncitizens or citizens, but not at the expense of the Constitution.

Grace Meng

Researcher, US program

Human Rights Watch

New York