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Can immigrants be detained indefinitely?

One of the hardest parts about being detained as an immigrant, or about having a loved one detained, is not knowing when it is going to end. You may feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and it can feel frustrating and depressing.

Is it possible for the authorities to hold people indefinitely, or should you know when it’s going to be over?

The reality is that federal authorities often can hold immigrants indefinitely. Even when immigrants are just arrested over minor issues — like joyriding — they can face long stretches behind bars.

Keep in mind that the average detention is 13 months. While some detained immigrants get out sooner, many see longer terms than that. Even that average, however, means more than a year of imprisonment if you’re detained. It’s a huge issue.

Frustrating many advocates, the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that there is no inherent right to periodic hearings for immigrants. If immigrants had this right, they could at least know that the court appearances would drive their cases forward. Without the right to a hearing, they don’t even know if their case is moving through the system at all. For many, it can feel like things have just ground to a halt for no reason.

This is true even for immigrants who are seeking asylum or those who have permanent legal status. It’s not just an issue facing those who entered the country illegally in the first place.

It’s important to know all of your legal options. If you’re worried about detainment or your loved one is already being detained, sorting through this process can take a lot of time and determination — and help.