The immigrants who sued for a bond hearing are facing being detained for many months, even years, before their cases are resolved.
The court ruled in the cases of people from Mexico and El Salvador who persuaded Homeland Security officials that their fears are credible, entitling them to further review.
Their lawyers argued that they should have a hearing before an immigration judge to determine if they should be released. The main factors are whether people would pose a danger or are likely to flee if set free.
Sotomayor wrote the court's opinion in one case involving Antonio Arteaga-Martinez, who had previously been deported to Mexico. He was taken into custody four years ago, and won release while his case wound through the federal courts. His hearing on whether he can remain in the United States is scheduled for 2023.
But Sotomayor wrote that the provision of immigration law that applies to people like Arteaga-Martinez simply doesn't require the government to hold a bond hearing.
The court, however, left open the issue of the immigrants' ability to argue that the Constitution does not permit such indefinite detention without a hearing.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote the court's opinion holding that federal judges can only rule in the case of the immigrants before them, not a class of similarly situated people.
Sotomayor dissented from that decision, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan. She wrote that the ability to join together in a class was especially important for people who have no right to a lawyer and “are disproportionately unlikely to be familiar with the U.S. legal system or fluent in the English language.”
The cases are Johnson v. Arteaga-Martinez, 19-896, and Garland v. Aleman Gonzalez, 20-322.