WASHINGTON, D.C.- After a couple of losses in the Supreme Court, the Trump administration finally won one.
On Thursday, the high court upheld a Trump administration policy that allows the government to arrest, question and quickly remove illegal immigrants who cross the border illegally, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
In a 7-2 decision, justices rejected a claim that illegal immigrants who seek asylum in the United States are entitled to a full federal court review via a writ of habeas corpus, even if their claims are not credible.
The decision came in the case of a Sri Lankan illegal who was captured late at night 25 yards north of the Mexican border near San Ysidro, California.
An asylum officer interviewed him and concluded that he did not have a “credible fear of prosecution,” [sic] which would have entitled him to a further hearing. Both a supervisor, as well as an immigration judge agreed with the asylum officer, saying his claim did not merit further review.
Last year, in a surprise to nobody, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals granted an appeal of the case, issuing a broad ruling that applied to the entire country which stated that the law which authorized “expedited removal” in cases such as this were unconstitutional.
Lawyers for the man, Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam claimed that there were “communication problems,” which prevented the asylum officer from hearing the full story of the man.
He claimed that he had been detained and beaten by army officers for his role in supporting a Tamil political candidate. The 9th Circuit ruled that the man’s right of habeas corpus and due process had been violated, and thus was unconstitutional.
The Department of Justice appealed, saying the ruling would undermine a 1996 process set by Congress which allowed for “expedited removals,” and would “lead to a ‘flood’ of lengthy appeals.”
The Supreme Court agreed with the DOJ and reversed the 9th Circuit, ruling that neither habeas corpus nor due process of law granted illegal border crossers the right to have a full claim review in federal courts.
Justice Samuel Alito, writing in the majority opinion said:
“While aliens who established connections in this country have due process rights in deportation hearings, the court has long ago held Congress is entitled to set the conditions for an alien’s lawful entry into this country and that, as a result, an alien at the threshold of initial entry cannot claim any greater rights” beyond those granted in the 1996 law.
Alito was referring to the right to be interviewed by an asylum officer, and a further review by an immigration judge.
Seventy-seven percent of people interviewed by an asylum officer during the past five years have been deemed to have a credible claim, Alito said. He said that expedited removal therefore only applies to roughly one-quarter of those who make an asylum claim.
Alito continued that habeas corpus “has traditionally been a means to secure release from unlawful detention.”
In the case of Thuraissigiam, “the government is happy to release him, provided the release occurs in the cabin of a plane bound for Sri Lanka,” said Alito. He continued that instead of seeking his release, the migrants goal is “to obtain authorization to stay in this country.”
Alito also blasted the 9th Circuit’s ruling, saying that it created a “perverse incentive” to encourage sneaking into the United States by treating them better than those who tries to enter through a port of entry.
“The Constitution gives the ‘political department of the government’ plenary authority to decide which aliens to admit,” Alito wrote.
He added that “a concomitant of that power is the power to set the procedures to be followed in determining whether an alien should be admitted.”
In making its decision, the 9th Circuit had spoken to and cited the Supreme Court’s rulings which extended habeas corpus rights to detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, however Alito noted that those particular detainees had sought release to go home, not permission to live in the United States.
Along with the four conservative judges and Chief Justice John Roberts (who knows which way he leans?), liberal justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred with the majority, although they did not join in Alito’s opinion.
Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented in a surprise to nobody.
“Today’s decision handcuffs the judiciary’s ability to perform its constitutional duty to safeguard individual liberty and dismantles a critical component of the separation of powers. It will leave significant exercises of executive discretion unchecked [and] increases the risk of erroneous immigration decisions that contravene governing statutes and treaties,” Sotomayor wrote.
The decision was a shot in the gut to immigrant-rights advocates, who say that the current expedited removal system is too harsh.
According to the Washington Times, immigration activists argued that illegal immigrants who had just arrived in the U.S. should have the right to challenge their removal, which would result in delaying their deportations for months or even years.
The ACLU was disappointed in the outcome, as expressed by their attorney Lee Gelernt, who argued the case before the high court.
“This ruling fails to live up to the Constitution’s bedrock principle that individuals deprived of their liberty have their day in court, and this includes asylum seekers. This decision means some people facing flawed deportation orders can be forcibly removed with no judicial oversight, putting their lives in grave danger,” he said.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles contrasted this week’s decision by the high court with last week’s ruling which blocked President Trump’s executive order rolling back DACA amnesty. The said that the court was appearing to create a distinction between “good immigrants’ and “bad immigrants.”
“Legal status should be a process that provides a just path to people who want to become part of this country and provide a better life for their families than they find in their countries of origin—not some kind of litmus test that separates people according to perceived personal qualities,” said Angelica Salas, the coalition’s executive director.
The Justice Department however, as expected praised the decision, noting that it will make it easier for the United States to police its borders.