Supreme Court rejects appeal for Latin American refugees seeking U.S. asylum

"The United States should not return these families to danger," an immigration advocate responded Monday.
By Doug G. Ware   |   April 17, 2017 at 4:27 PM
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April 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected pleas for review hearings from more than 60 Central American women and children who are facing immediate deportation -- handing a legal victory to President Donald Trump's administration as it steps up efforts to enforce federal immigration laws.

The high court refused to hear the asylum seekers' case Monday, leaving in place a lower court ruling that denied their appeal to have their cases considered by an independent federal hearing.

The immigrants -- from Honduras, Guatemala and Ecuador -- argue that they will face gender-based discrimination and violence if they are forced to return to their homelands. They entered the United States through Texas in 2015 but were immediately detained and marked for expedited removal.

The migrants, represented in their appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union, argue that because they were immediately placed in the removal process they have been denied their right to a federal review. A lower court, though, decided that they have no such right because they are not American citizens and don't satisfy the requirements met by immigrants who do receive hearings.

The lower court ruling basically puts the asylum seekers on the same legal ground as undocumented immigrants who are refused at the border before they can enter the United States.

"Congress may, consonant with the Constitution, deny habeas review in federal court of claims relating to an alien's application for admission to the country, at least as to aliens who have been denied initial entry or who, like petitioners, were apprehended very near the border and, essentially, immediately after surreptitious entry into the country," the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia previously concluded.

The ACLU, which represented 28 single mothers and 33 children in the case, rejected the logic of the lower court's decision, saying migrants who cross the border "cannot be treated as non-citizens arriving at the border and thereby denied constitutional rights, particularly habeas corpus rights."

"These families cannot be sent back to certain danger," Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said in a statement. "The United States has an international obligation to grant asylum seekers a fair hearing. They must not be deported, or detained any longer, and must have their full cases heard by an immigration judge."

"It is alarming that the Supreme Court has passed on the opportunity to correct this deeply flawed ruling which denies due process to mothers and children who are seeking this country's protection," Eleanor Acer, senior director of refugee protection at Human Rights First, said Monday. "These families, who have sadly been held in immigration detention for over a year after requesting this country's protection, face dire risks of danger in their home countries. The United States should not return these families to danger.

"The expedited removal process is riddled with deficiencies that leave vulnerable refugees at risk of deportation back to persecution."

Though the case entered the federal court system under former President Barack Obama's administration, the Supreme Court's decision Monday hands a legal victory to Trump's government in its attempt to ramp up enforcement of federal immigration laws. Earlier this year, it authorized greater enforcement and widened the pool of potential deportees.

However, multiple federal courts have rejected two of Trump's orders to deny U.S. entry for immigrants and refugees and many lawmakers believe his effort to build a large border wall won't meet with congressional approval, let alone pass legal muster.

The president's Supreme Court appointee, Neil M. Gorsuch, who began his first day on the high court bench Monday, was not part of the decision to reject the case.

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