The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a Trump administration appeal that could bolster the government’s ability to deport undocumented immigrants quickly after their asylum bids are rejected.
Taking up a politically charged issue, the justices said they’ll review a lower court’s conclusion that people who enter the country illegally have a broad right under the Constitution to make their case to a federal judge before being deported.
The case centers on “expedited removal,” a streamlined deportation process set up by Congress in 1996. Right now, those eligible include thousands of people who every year are arrested within 100 miles of the border less than two weeks after crossing and then are deemed by immigration officials not to have a credible fear of being persecuted if they are deported. The process gives federal judges only a limited role.
The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Constitution guarantees a Sri Lankan man arrested near the Mexican border a “meaningful opportunity” to show he met the criteria for asylum.
In its appeal, the Trump administration said the 9th Circuit ruling would “impose a severe burden” on the U.S. immigration system.
“Such review would further strain the government’s limited resources and prevent expedited removal from being expedited at all,” argued U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.
Under the expedited removal system, an asylum officer makes an initial determination of whether the person faces a credible fear of persecution. If the officer concludes that no credible fear exists, a supervisor reviews the case, and the asylum seeker can then turn to an immigration judge within the Homeland Security Department.
The petitioner's lawyers say the hearing before the immigration judge often lasts just a few minutes and almost always occurs without witnesses. By law, that hearing must take place no later than seven days after the asylum officer’s determination.
The immigrant may then turn to federal court, but U.S. immigration law effectively limits that review to claims of mistaken identity, the ACLU lawyers say.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments early next year and rule by July. The case is Department of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam, 19-161.
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Updated: Fri, Nov 1st 2019 @ 4:05pm EDT