Supreme Court rules asylum seeker cannot challenge removal

Washington (CNN)In a win for the Department of Homeland Security, the Supreme Court said Thursday that a Sri Lankan farmer who lost his bid for asylum in the United States after immigration officials ordered his removal could not challenge that decision in federal court.

The ruling will keep courthouse doors closed to asylum seekers in expedited removal processes who say they cannot return home because they have a credible fear of torture or even death.The ruling is a win for the Trump administration, which has attempted to dramatically limit who’s eligible for asylum in the US, though it likely won’t have an immediate impact since the vast majority of asylum seekers are currently barred from entering the country following new coronavirus border restrictions.

Seven justices sided with the government in the case, but only five — all conservatives — signed onto the majority opinion penned by Justice Samuel Alito.Alito said that the petitioner in the case, Vijayakumar Thuraissigiam, “does not want ‘simple release’ but, ultimately, the opportunity to remain lawfully in the United States.”

Additional court challenges could also gum up the immigration system, Alito said.”If courts must review credible-fear claims that in the eyes of immigration officials and an immigration judge do not meet the low bar for such claims,” he wrote, “expedited removal would augment the burdens on that system.”The ruling could stand to affect many asylum seekers in the future by stripping away the opportunity to go to federal court to contest a negative finding by immigration officials.

Currently, undocumented immigrants who are caught within 100 miles of a land border and within 14 days of arrival are subject to an expedited removal process and can be ordered removed without further hearing or review. If the individual seeks asylum, however, he or she is provided additional screening before an asylum officer, a supervisory officer and an immigration judge to determine whether the person has a credible fear of persecution or torture if returned to his or her home country.

“This is a devastating blow to the due process rights of asylum seekers who arrive at our border seeking protection,” said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council.The Trump administration wants to include undocumented immigrants anywhere in the US who cannot prove they’ve lived in the US continuously for two years or more. A federal judge has blocked the move but proceedings are ongoing.

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