Can an immigrant be deported without a proper hearing? According to a U.S. appeals court, they can’t. On Thursday, a Sri Lankan man successfully appealed to have his fast-track deportation appeal heard by federal courts.
The ruling is significant because it has the potential to affect thousands of immigrants struggling with the Trump administration’s “expedited removal,” a policy that has fostered controversy since its earliest days.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Sri Lankan man and is calling the ruling historic because it could prevent President Trump’s controversial deportation policy from expanding. Three Democratic members of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th District heard the man’s case.
What is the Ruling About?
The ruling concerns the case of Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a Sri Lankan who entered the country illegally in 2017 seeking asylum. He claimed that Sri Lankan government officials were threatening his life because he supported a minority political candidate. Homeland Security detained the man shortly after he entered the country and diverted his case away from due process and into the process of expedited removal.
The expedited removal program is based on immigration law from 1996 that allows immigration officials to deport foreigners with no legal papers without a hearing. However, an immigrant seeking asylum out of fear for their life is entitled to an asylum interview. If they fail this hearing, their only option for appeal is a quick review by a Justice Department immigration judge.
For the last two decades, authorities used the law when they detain immigrants who have only been in the country for two weeks or less and who are within 100 miles of the border. In 2017, the Trump administration stated its intent to use the process of expedited removal on immigrants who have been in the country for up to two years.
Judge A. Wallace Tashima criticized the system of expedited removal by accusing it as having “meager procedural protections because it blocks immigrants from having a thorough judicial review of their case." Because the ruling overturned a 3rd Circuit ruling, lawyers representing Mr. Thuraissigiam are preparing to present their client’s case to the Supreme Court. However, the precedent set by this ruling has lasting implications for the Trump Administration’s process of expedited removal and may stop it from expanding.
Why This Case Matters
Lee Gelernt, an attorney from the ACLU, confirmed that the 9th Circuit ruling might help immigrants challenge their expedited removal from the country. “The ruling means that thousands of current and future asylum seekers cannot be removed based solely on a cursory review from immigration officials, without a neutral federal court reviewing their case,” Gelernt said in a comment to The Washington Post. Gelernt also asserted that Congress and the president do not have the constitutional power to remove the process of the courts when a person’s liberty is at risk.
Last year, the Congressional Research Service said that the government has the right to hold immigrants without “traditional due process protections that traditionally apply to persons physically present in the United States.” However, the 9th Circuit panel ruled that expedited removal violates an immigrant’s rights to habeas corpus and the Suspension Clause of the Constitution. This clause states that the government can only block a prisoner's right to due process during events such as an invasion or rebellion. Though the decision does not grant Mr. Thuraissigiam the right to asylum, it does assert that he did not receive the fair hearing that the law requires—a ruling that may help thousands of people caught up in the administration’s policy of expedited removal.
If you have concerns about your expedited removal case and are looking for help, call our New Jersey immigration attorney today at (800) 909-8129 for a free consultation.