The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to take up a major immigration case concerning the rights of undocumented immigrants seeking asylum to challenge their expedited removal proceedings.
The Trump administration had asked the court to review an opinion of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that would allow those who have been denied asylum the opportunity to make their claims in federal courts.
If the opinion is ultimately upheld, it could open the doors to more asylum seekers at a time when the administration has attempted to dramatically limit who’s eligible for asylum in the US.
The case centers on Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, a native citizen of Sri Lanka who’s a member of an ethnic minority group. He was arrested 25 yards north of the US-Mexico border and placed in expedited removal proceedings. That fast-track deportation procedure allows immigration authorities to remove an individual without a hearing before an immigration judge.
Thuraissigiam applied for asylum, citing fear of persecution in Sri Lanka, and an asylum officer determined he had not established a credible fear of persecution. A supervising officer and an immigration judge affirmed the decision. Under the law, after the denial, Thuraissigiam was ineligible to challenge the finding.
Thuraissigiam went to federal district court, arguing that the expedited removal violated his constitutional rights. A district court said the law did not authorize the court to hear his claims. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, but said the law violates the Suspension Clause, which, the court held, requires Thuraissigiam, even as a noncitizen, to have a “meaningful opportunity” to demonstrate that he is being held against the law.
The Trump administration argued in briefs that the law — which sharply limits judicial review to final orders of removal — was passed so that the asylum system would not be abused. The law offers some exceptions, but they were not met by Thuraissigiam.
“The Ninth Circuit held that the Suspension Clause provides respondent with a constitutional right to additional review of his application for admission, beyond the review Congress has established,” Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued in court briefs. He said Thuraissigiam “failed to satisfy even the threshold screening standard.”
A Congressional Research Service report notes that the Supreme Court “has repeatedly held” that the government may exclude immigrants “without affording them the due process protections that traditionally apply to persons physically present in the United States.”
Expedited removal has been a point of contention in recent months, as the Trump administration has moved to expand the procedure and cast a wider net over undocumented immigrants subject to it. A federal judge blocked the move in a separate case last month.
This story has been updated.