In win for Trump, SCOTUS blocks migrants from appealing asylum denials in federal court

The Trump administration received word of a significant legal victory late last week.

The Washington Examiner reports that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that migrants who are denied asylum in fast-tracked processes cannot appeal such a decision in federal court. 

Asylum denied

Legal proceedings in the underlying case began when Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, an asylum-seeker from Sri Lanka, was arrested for illegally crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, according to The Hill.

While in custody, Thuraissigiam claimed that he had been kidnapped and tortured by Sri Lankan intelligence and said that he fled for the U.S. and illegally crossed the border only after being knocked unconscious and waking up in a hospital, the Examiner noted.

The problem for Thuraissigiam is that he didn’t have any proof of anything that he was saying. The interviewing border agent therefore determined that Thuraissigiam did not have a “credible fear of persecution” in his home country — a threshold requirement for asylum seekers, according to The Hill.

Accordingly, Thuraissigiam was scheduled, pursuant to the expedited removal process developed in the mid-1990s, to be returned to Sri Lanka. But things did not end there.

The appeal

The first thing that Thuraissigiam did was file a petition for habeas corpus in federal court. A district court judge reviewed the matter and held that he did not have the authority to intervene in a case involving expedited removal and dismissed the claim.

Then, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) intervened, as The Hill reported separately.

On behalf of Thuraissigiam, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, arguing that Thuraissigiam and others who are put on expedited removal after only an initial interview ought to be allowed to file an appeal in federal court.

The case made its way through the legal system, eventually reaching the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and it was there that Thuraissigiam first notched a win, The Hill noted, but that success was destined to be short-lived.

SCOTUS decides

In the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that those in Thuraissigiam’s position are simply not entitled to file a petition for habeas corpus, as the Sri Lankan migrant had done, simply because that is a procedure meant for use by individuals seeking release from custodial detention, not merely as a pathway to get an issue into federal court for adjudication, as NBC News reported.

The only two dissenting voices on the matter were liberal stalwart Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, according to The Hill. After recent defeats on LGBT protections and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it is nice to see the Trump administration emerge victorious on an issue that remains critical to so many Americans.

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